Key races on the line in today’s Hawaii primary election

Gun Rights

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Tonight’s the night when voters across the state will learn whether new faces — or familiar names — will represent their interests at all levels of Hawaii government, from Congress to the governor’s office and Legislature, to County Councils and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Today’s primary election, with voting closing at 7 p.m., will determine which candidates will face off against one another in the Nov. 8 general election following months of tense and sometimes nasty campaigning just to get to this point.

Because of redistricting, all 76 state House and Senate seats are up for election, including a tightly contested rematch that will determine whether House Speaker Scott Saiki will likely return to power or whether there will be a new slate of House leaders come January.

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Some of the nastiest and personal exchanges so far have come from the Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green — the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial front-runner in terms of fundraising, political endorsements and approval ratings — has gotten tangled in several testy exchanges, in particular, with U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele in their primary race.

The two used to represent different parts of Hawaii island in the state Senate and once considered themselves allies. But any goodwill has since eroded after Kahele announced in May that he was giving up a chance at reelection to Congress to instead run for governor.

The Democratic race for Hawaii’s next lieutenant governor also has devolved into nastiness, with mudslinging by supporters of former Honolulu Council Chair Ikaika Anderson aimed at state House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke.

And first-term state House Rep. Patrick Branco has been called out for indirectly encouraging supporters on his campaign website to link fellow congressional candidate Jill Tokuda to the National Rifle Association in television commercials that Tokuda told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser she considered “disgusting.”

Two other Democratic members of Hawaii’s four-member congressional delegation — Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Ed Case — appear a safe bet to win their primary races and move on to November.

Each county charter has different rules about how many votes are needed for Council candidates to move on to the Nov. 8 general election. In Honolulu, four of the nine nonpartisan City Council seats are up for election. Any candidate who receives a simple majority of 50% plus one vote automatically wins. If not, the two top vote-getters in each race will face each other in the general election.

The primary votes for state Legislature, lieutenant governor, governor and Congress will determine which candidates from each political party will advance to the general election, kicking off nearly three more months of campaigning and fundraising.

Since 2020 the overwhelming number of votes in Hawaii elections have been cast via a relatively new system of mail-in balloting. But votes can still be cast in person by 7 p.m. today at voter service centers and “place of deposit” drop boxes in all counties, as long as voters are in line by the scheduled close at 7 p.m. Any extended voting will delay the state Office of Elections’ release of statewide voting results.

A list of voters service centers and ballot drop boxes around the state is available at

As in 2020, tonight’s first election results are expected to include all mail-in ballots and in-person votes cast as of today, meaning an estimated 90% of ballots will be accounted for in the first election returns, which are expected sometime after 7 p.m.

Republicans have an unusually strong gubernatorial slate this year that includes former two-term Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, who served years as a deputy prosecutor and then state judge; Honolulu Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who gave up likely reelection; and BJ Penn, a member of the Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame who is running for his first political office.

There is no shortage of interest in several down- ballot races, especially with redistricting changing political boundaries.

House Speaker Saiki is engaged in a Democratic primary rematch against former Board of Education member Kim Coco Iwamoto. Saiki beat Iwamoto in the 2020 primary by just 167 votes, buoying his opponent’s hopes for a victory

At stake in the race in the newly configured House District 25, which has been narrowed to the Kakaako-Ala Moana area, is whether Saiki will resume power or be defeated, creating a vacuum for new leadership in the House.

Other House races with high interest include how constituents in District 42 (Kapolei-­Makakilo) and neighboring District 41 (Ewa Village-Ocean Pointe-Ewa Beach) will respond to the 2021 arrest and subsequent January acquittal of state Rep. Sharon Har on drunken driving charges, followed by the more recent June 16 DUI arrest of Rep. Matt LoPresti. Both Democrats are seeking reelection.

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