BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – While the momentum across the country this Nov. 2 election was largely with Republicans, in Hawaii, the trend was the opposite leading some to call Republicans an “endangered species.”
GOP Lt. Governor Duke Aiona and his running mate Rep. Lynn Finnegan lost their bid for governor and lieutenant governor to former Congressman Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, and former Rep. Brian Schatz 41 percent to 58 percent.
Aiona served with Gov. Linda Lingle for the last 8 years as the first Republican administration since 1962.
Congressman Charles Djou, R-HI, who won his seat May 22 through a special three-way election after Abercrombie resigned to run for governor, fell behind Democratic state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa by 10,000 votes.
National political groups including the Republican and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees spent considerable resources and $1.5 million on negative advertising.
While Democratic candidates in other states tried to distance themselves from Barack Obama this election, in Hawaii, Obama’s childhood home, the president is still is extremely popular, so his personal endorsements on television and robo and conference calls for Abercrombie and Hanabusa were effective.
U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, one of the nation’s most powerful senators as head of the appropriations committee, also took a special interest in Hanabusa’s campaign, lobbying and fundraising for her and signwaving on the street by her side. Inouye, in the Senate for 50 years, has long been considered the godfather of Hawaii politics, and as a WWII war hero, his enthusiastic endorsement of Hanabusa helped boost her over the top.
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, D-HI-2 easily won re-election despite a challenge from United Airlines Pilot John Wiloughby.
In the legislative races, Republicans, who held 6 of 51 House seats, may have picked up three seats, but not all of the ballots are counted at the time of this report’s filing.
Republican Shaun Kawakami as of 11:17 p.m. was just about 100 votes ahead of Rep. Marilyn Lee, D-Mililani.
Republican Gil Riviere won an open seat on Oahu’s North Shore, and former Police Officer George Fontaine, a GOP candidate, beat Rep. Joe Bertram, D-Maui.
Republican Aaron Johansen held onto Finnegan’s House seat, while Republican Reps. Kim Pine, Corrine Ching, Barbara Marumoto, Cynthia Thielen and Gene Ward were re-elected.
In the Senate, Republicans held just two of 25 seats, but now they are down to one.
Sen. Fred Hemmings, R-Kailua, had opted not to run this year, and a union-backed Democrat, Pohai Ryan, won that seat. State Senator Sam Slom, R-Hawaii-Kai to Diamond Head was re-elected with more than 60 percent of the vote.
The remaining seats in the House and Senate went to Democrats.
While Oahu’s council and mayoral races are non-partisan, in Maui County, former Republican Mayor Alan Arakawa beat out incumbent Democrat Charmaine Tavares.
The total vote turn out in Hawaii is just under 360,000, with absentee voting accounting for an estimated 140,000 votes.
Several local Democratic leaders said mainland voters supporting Republicans just don’t understand the importance of supporting the president and his policies, but in Hawaii, voters do so gratefully.
See the full list of election results here: