It was quite the exciting night in national politics Tuesday for Republicans, wasn’t it? They celebrated retaining control of the U.S. Senate and even picked up a few seats.
The GOP was also pleased that crusty Sen. Ted Cruz denied boy wonder Beto O’Rourke a historic win in Texas, Rep. Kevin Cramer knocked off Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Mike Braun took down Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Josh Hawley prevailed over Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Marsha Blackburn will be the first woman to represent Tennessee in the Senate, Mitt Romney will be the new senator from Utah, Ron DeSantis will be Florida’s next governor and Rick Scott will be the Sunshine State’s newest senator.
But Democrats also had a remarkable night, starting with flipping control of the House. Hello again, Speaker Nancy Pelosi?
Local Democratic politicians, including Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell at the mic, celebrate their own Blue Wave on Tuesday night. But that was just ordinary Hawaii politics.
Stewart Yerton/Civil Beat
In other Dem victories, Laura Kelly defeated Kris Kobach in the Kansas governor’s race, Tony Evers unseated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Rep. Jacky Rosen upset Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada, openly gay ex-MMA fighter Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of New Mexico are the first ever Native American women elected to Congress, Michelle Lujan Grisham becomes New Mexico’s first Democratic Latina governor, Ayanna Pressley is the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts and Jahana Hayes in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District is her state’s first black Democrat in Congress.
But wait — there’s more wins for the Democrats, all of them firsts.
Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District will become the first Somali-American member of Congress (Tlaib and Omar also represent the first two Muslim-American women to serve in Congress), New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and Jared Polis of Colorado will be the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S.
All told, it was a night of high drama, historic upsets, heartbreaking losses, many diverse firsts and lots of promises of change. One of the few races yet to be called before I finally fell asleep is the too-close-to-call governor’s race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacy Abrams in Georgia. Same goes for Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally’s matchup in Arizona. Abrams would be the first ever African-American female governor while either Sinema or McSally show Arizona electing a woman to the Senate.
And here at home? Yawn.
Nothing really changed and most races (with the exception of a couple of nail-biters — I’m talking to you, Trevor Ozawa and Tommy Waters) were over by the time the first printout was released about an hour after the polls closed. The “blue wave” on the mainland was not as huge as initially forecast, but Hawaii remains as cerulean as the sea that surrounds us.
Seen This Movie Before
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case are all returning to Washington — again — and probably for as long as they like. The margins of victory were so large that Cam Cavasso, who lost to Case, might finally hang up his paddle.
Gov. David Ige and running mate Josh Green, a state senator, cruised to a dominant win over House Minority Leader Andria Tupola and non-running mate Marissa Kerns. So certain was the outcome that the national media called the race within minutes of the polls closing at 6 p.m., even though zero percent of the vote had been counted.
Tupola, believed by many to have a promising future in politics, did not help her career by starring in an ill-advised video “comedy skit” this week that mocked Ige.
Barring any change that might come from the final counting of absentee ballots in the wee hours Wednesday, Democrats will continue to dominate the Legislature. The only surprise was that Republican Kurt Fevella appeared to be keeping Democrat Matt LoPresti from moving from the House to the Senate.
Val Okimoto, who won a House seat from Mililani, becomes part of a rare breed — Republicans in the Hawaii Legislature.
That would mean Dems would now have 24 seats in the 25-seat chamber. Assuming Val Okimoto bests Marilyn Lee in the Mililiani House race, the GOP will keep five members in the 51-member chamber.
The bench of the Democratic Party of Hawaii is so deep that many of its darlings were killed off in the Aug. 11 primary: state Sens. Will Espero, Donna Mercado Kim and Jill Tokuda; state Reps. Beth Fukumoto and Kaniela Ing; Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin, former Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
I’m sure we will see many of the “losers” running again for office. For now, though, only Kim (whose own seat was not up this year) will remain in office.
The general election was so boring that the most controversial contest was on the constitutional amendment on property taxes for schools. But Hawaii’s high court struck it from the ballot.
In contrast, another constitutional question — whether to have a constitutional convention — received little attention outside the coverage of Civil Beat. Had it passed, a ConCon might well have brought tremendous change to the Aloha State. No wonder that it was opposed by labor unions, business, environmentalists and civil rights groups, which made unfounded claims that the state’s constitution would be torn asunder and that its cost would be astronomical.
Ige’s Mandate, OHA’s Shift
The only major changes from election night in Hawaii are yet to come. They start with Ige, who has a clear mandate to govern. Whether state House and Senate leaders will acknowledge that and work with the governor rather than against him is up to them. We will also see whether there are any Cabinet changes, although Ige has bragged that his administration is among the best.
Another significant change coming from general election results will be in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The election of Kalei Akaka to take the seat of outgoing trustee Peter Apo along with a new face — it appeared to be Brendon Lee — to replace Rowena Akana suggests that the agency dedicated to supporting Native Hawaiian beneficiaries will have new blood and new direction.
I take some comfort that Hawaii’s elected officials, though dominated by one party, reflect diversity. But even there we came up a little short. While a record number of women were elected to the U.S. House, for example, the Kauai County Council will be comprised almost entirely of men. Again. All four of the state’s mayors are male, too, as are the leaders of the state House and Senate.
At least Hawaii didn’t elect anyone facing indictment. That was the case with Republican Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California. So, we’ve got that going for us.
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