WASHINGTON — There was little drama Tuesday in the races to represent Hawaii in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Both Congressman Ed Case and state Sen. Kai Kahele easily beat their respective Republican challengers, highlighting the Democratic Party’s continued dominance in the Aloha State.

In Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, which represents urban Oahu, Case led Republican challenger Ron Curtis 65.1% to 24.8%, according to results released early Wednesday morning by the State Office of Elections.  

Kai Kahele, candidate for US congress, sign-waves with his wife Maria, daugthers Iolana (6) (standing) and Namaka (4) along Hilo’s Bayfront area. Photo: Tim Wright
The presumptive winner of the 2nd Congressional District race, Kai Kahele, is seen here sign-waving with his wife Maria and daughters Iolana, standing, and Namaka, along Hilo’s Bayfront area. Tim Wright/Civil Beat/2020

Kahele, who will represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, led Republican Joseph Akana 58.4% to 28%.

The results reflect a turnout of 66.8% of total registered voters, which is higher than it was in 2008 when Hawaii-born Barack Obama was on the presidential ballot.

“Words cannot express my deep appreciation to everyone who has believed in our campaign, supported us, voted and donated,” Kahele said in a tweet shortly after midnight. “Our challenging work begins now, and I’ll do everything I can to bring our state the resources we need to recover and build a resilient Hawaii.”

Kahele will replace U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who decided not to run for reelection after a failed presidential campaign in which she only won two primary delegates in American Samoa, her birthplace.

He will be the first Native Hawaiian to serve in Congress since U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s retirement in January 2013.

The path to victory for both Case and Kahele was surprisingly easy. Case did not face a Democratic challenger in this year’s primary after winning the party’s nomination against a crowded field in 2018 that included state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim and former Lt. Gov. Doug Chin.

Curtis, a former NASA contractor, provided little more than token opposition in the general election. Curtis is a Kauai resident who hasn’t lived in the district since he was a child and has said he would not move to Oahu even if he was elected.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case was cruising to another term Tuesday night. Courtesy: Governor's Office

Curtis also became known for sharing content from QAnon conspiracy theorists who falsely believe President Donald Trump is in an epic battle with a secret cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles who harvest the blood of young children.

Kahele launched his campaign shortly after Gabbard announced her own bid for president, making the pitch to voters that he would put the interests of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District  ahead of his own political ambitions.

The decision to come out early against Gabbard paid off for Kahele. He was able to capitalize on anti-Gabbard sentiment — both at home and in Washington — to raise his political profile and secure campaign contributions, including from donors outside of Hawaii.

Kahele, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard, was endorsed by some of the state’s biggest political players, including former governors John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie.

He also secured endorsements from former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and most of Hawaii’s federal delegation, including Case and U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. 

Case said that he hoped the lack of competition in his race indicated that voters appreciated the job he did during his past two years in Congress, especially in responding to the coronavirus pandemic by passing a $2 trillion relief bill that brought billions of dollars into the state.

He said he looks forward to working with Kahele in Washington, noting they that they both hail from Hilo on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“I think he’s going to do very well in Congress and I think that we’re going to form a good team,” Case said.

While he had a good relationship with Gabbard, Case said it was clear from her presidential run that her attention was elsewhere.

“Our offices worked well together, but for that two year period she was not fully engaged in Congress,” Case said. “That was a tremendous load to be carrying for the state. For a small delegation like Hawaii with only two representatives you need them both to be powering along.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more results come in.

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