Hawaii’s primary is not until Aug. 13, but if the election were held today Lt. Gov. Josh Green would easily defeat his two main Democratic primary opponents.

According to a new Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, Green has 48% of the vote compared to U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele with 16% and businesswoman Vicky Cayetano with 15%.

Nearly one-fifth of those polled (22%) say they are not sure who they will vote for. But of the 782 likely Democratic primary voters surveyed, nearly half want to see Green elevated to the governorship.

The lieutenant governor scores well across demographic lines including gender, age, ethnicity, education, income, ideology and geography. The only area where he fares less well is Kauai, where Kahele does best.


“A poll is a snapshot in time, but it appears that Lt. Gov. Green has a substantial lead in this race,” said Seth Rosenthal, a survey consultant with MRG Research, which conducted the poll. “To catch him, either Kahele or Cayetano would have to consolidate the support of the undecided voters around themselves but also win over some of the supporters of the other candidates.”

With less than six weeks until the primary — and with mail-in ballots being sent out July 26 — time is running out for all candidates to sway voters.

But televised and live-streamed appearances of the three candidates began late last month and there are several forums scheduled in July to help voters make their decisions. Paid advertising is also in heavy rotation on local TV stations and in print and online media.

Still, based on this poll, the race as of this week is Green’s to lose while Kahele and Cayetano have a lot of ground to make up to catch him.

Diverse Backgrounds

Green was elected lieutenant governor in 2018 after serving in both the state House and state Senate representing Hawaii island. He is a medical doctor who has emphasized his work on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kahele was elected to Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020 after previously serving in the state Senate representing Hawaii island. He is a commercial airline pilot and a military veteran, and he’s running a grassroots campaign that rejects special interest funding.

Cayetano became first lady of Hawaii in 1997 when she married Ben Cayetano, who served as governor from 1994 to 2002. She is president of United Laundry Services and has pointed to her business experience as a major advantage for her campaign.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green is up by 30 points in a new Civil Beat/HNN poll. Supporters liked his efforts during the pandemic to keep people informed. Screenshot/2021

Civil Beat spoke with a number of people who responded to the poll about why they have decided to vote for a certain candidate.

Steven Best, an Uber driver from Moanalua, finds Green to be knowledgeable.

“I greatly respect doctors, so he had a leg up to start with,” he said. “From all I’ve seen of him, he seems like a very caring and good public servant. And there are so few of those in Hawaii.”

Melanie Kealii Pualani Hiram-Broad, 47, a small-business owner in Hauula, also trusts Green’s experience as a doctor and leader in the state through the pandemic.

“He saw all the day-to-day operations in the middle of a pandemic, and so I think he has a clear understanding of what our state is going through,” she said.

She also thinks Green will be the best candidate to lead Hawaii through possible Covid resurgences. But she also worries that his background as a doctor will keep him from his duties at the Capitol.

“I like the fact that he’s on the ground in the community, but I don’t feel like he has time to be a governor, be a doctor and be in the community. I think that that could lead to the ball getting dropped.”

But Gail Tagashira, a retired woman from Ala Moana, supports Cayetano not Green.

“Because of Green’s campaign finances, he has taken dirty money to me. And I’m not really sure if he has the ability to get legislative bills influenced.”

“I think Cayetano and Sylvia Luke would be a good team as far as legislative duties go,” she said.

Vicky Cayetano speaks at a press conference held near Nuuanu Elementary School. Cayetano proposed her priorities of her campaign.
Businesswoman Vicky Cayetano is trailing behind Green in a new poll in the Democratic primary race. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Local Favorite

Julia Vollmer, 25, a substitute teacher from Maui, thinks that it is more representative of the state to have a local governor like Kahele.

“The fact that he is like a local running makes a big difference, especially at a time when there’s a lot of people from the mainland running.”

“From his interviews and campaign, I just felt like he would be a good candidate,” she added.

The Civil Beat/HNN poll, taken June 28-30, surveyed 1,120 registered voters. The poll’s margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Of those who responded to the survey, 782 identified as likely Democratic primary voters. The margin of error for that pool is 4 percentage points.

Civil Beat conducted its poll with MRG Research using a combination of interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling) and a survey administered online.

Both the touch-tone and online version of the poll were conducted using random, probability-based samplings of registered voters in Hawaii.

The touch-tone version was conducted by contacting landline telephones. The online version was conducted by texting cellphones and linking poll participants to an online survey optimized for smartphones.

Rep Kai Kahele announces running for Hawaii Governor at the Hilo Boys and Girls Club gymnasium.
Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele is a favorite among survey-takers who want a local candidate for governor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Four other Democrats — Duke Bourgoin, Richard Kim, Mac Lewman and Van Tanabe — are also seeking the gubernatorial nomination.

And there are 10 Republicans seeking that party’s nod and two nonpartisan candidates.

Voters in Hawaii’s primary do not have to be registered with a party to vote for its candidates, but they may only select one party’s ballot.

Coming later Wednesday: How the Republican candidates for governor stack up.

Coming Thursday: Polling the top Democrats running for lieutenant governor.

Read the full results of Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll on the Democratic governor’s race here:

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