2012 elections review: Handful of incumbents defeated in Hawaii primaries

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August 13, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

The primary season continued with elections in Hawaii on Saturday.

Here's what happened in Hawaii, where elections were held for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Hawaii State Senate, and Hawaii State House.

Just days before the primary, Hawaiian election officials were thrown a curve ball when two key staffers in the office, the acting elections administrator and the person in charge of voter registration, reported that they would be out on sick leave until after the election.[1] Additionally, temporary staffer Kui Kama, who worked the 2008 and 2010 elections in the Hawaiian election office, resigned on August 8 and submitted a resignation letter that said, "I refuse to be a part of something that will fail, because I know it will."[1] According to Jeffrey Kuwada, the Maui County Clerk since 2009, "It is my personal opinion that the operation of a successful primary election in Hawaii County is doubtful, if more election personnel fail to report to work."[1]

Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi stated on August 9th, "We're fine, we're doing OK," despite closing the office for a day in July without warning to audit voter registration rolls[1] and reportedly not responding to state elections officials' requests for a detailed update for nearly an entire week.[1] Kawauchi was appointed to the Hawaii County clerk's job in 2010 and has not worked an election before.[1] Despite the concerns, Kawauchi said back-up staff have been shadowing staffers for several weeks and have assumed their responsibilities.[1]

In response to several polling stations delaying their opening time yesterday, Governor Neil Abercrombie issued a proclamation to extend polling hours on Hawaii Island by 90 minutes on Saturday.[2] The delays ranged from only a few minutes in some places to more than a half hour in others, and almost an hour and a half in one location.[2] "The most important issue in this situation is to make sure that everyone who wants to vote can vote. By extending the poll hours, we are making that possible. I also want to thank all those who are working hard to assist at all polling stations across the state," said Abercrombie in a proclamation on August 11.[2] Because of the delay, election results were not released until the close of all polls.[2]

Contested Primaries in Hawaii -- August 11, 2012
U.S. House
(2 seats)
State Legislature
(76 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 2 (100%) 31 (40.79%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 2 (100%) 7 (9.21%)


U.S. House

United States House of Representatives elections in Hawaii, 2012

Hawaii had a total of 2 seats on the ballot in 2012. A total of 14 candidates filed to run, made up of 7 Democratic challengers, 6 Republican challengers, and 1 incumbent. A total of 355 U.S. House seats have held primaries. Thus far, 57.46% of possible primaries have been contested. Hawaii's contested figure of 100% (4 out of 4 possible party primaries) is more competitive than the national average.

Running for re-election in the 1st District was incumbent Colleen Hanabusa, who in 2010 ousted Republican Representative Charles Djou who had won earlier in 2010 through a special election created by the departure of Neil Abercrombie from the 1st District seat up to the Governor position.[3] Hanabusa defeated challenger Roy F. Wyttenbach II in the Democratic primary.[4] Djou defeated Charles Amsterdam and John Giuffre for the Republican nomination.Djou will face off against Hanabusa in a 2010 rematch in the general election on November 6, 2012.[3][4]

In Hawaii's 2nd District, incumbent Mazie Hirono's decision to run for Hawaii's Senate seat left an open seat. On the Democratic ticket 6 candidates, Rafael del Castillo, Honolulu city councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard, Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, former Hill staffer Esther Kiaaina, attorney Bob Marx, and Miles Shiratori, faced off for the nomination. Tulsi Gabbard won the nomination after defeating Castillo, Marx, Hannemann, Kiaaina and Shiratori in the primary. In the Republican primary David Crowley and Matthew Digeronimo went head to head for the nomination. In the end, David Crowley won the nomination over Digeronimo.[4] Tulsi Gabbard (D) and David Crowley (R), along with Libertarian Party candidate Patric Brock, will run in the general election on November 6, 2012.

U.S. Senate

Running for Hawaii's Senate seat to replace retiring longtime incumbent Daniel Akaka was Hawaii's 2nd District incumbent Mazie Hirono, who faced a primary challenge from former Representative Ed Case, Michael Gillespie, Antonio Gimbernat, and Arturo Reyes in the Democratic primary. Case represented Hawaii’s 2nd District from 2002 until 2007, when he was succeeded by Mazie Hirono after deciding to challenge longtime Senator Daniel Akaka in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary.[3] Hirono won the nomination after defeating all challengers in the Democratic primary.[5]

On the Republican side, former Governor Linda Lingle faced primary competition from former state representative and state senator John Carroll, 2006 and 2010 candidate Eddie Pirkowski, and candidates Charles Collins and John Roco. Lingle won Republican nomination, advancing her to the general election where she will face Hirono on November 6, 2012.[5]

The general election battle between Hirono and Lingle is set to be a rematch of the 2002 gubernatorial contest in which Hirono lost to Lingle, who went on to be the first two-term Republican Governor of the state in 40 years.[6]

Many are citing the rare cross-party endorsement Hirono received from Alaskan Republican Representative Don Young on July 24, 2012 as a sign that the general election may end up being an intense contest between Hirono and Lingle.[7][6] Young and Hirono created a 90 second video discussing bipartisanship and Young endorsed Hirono for U.S. Senate. “Though Don Young is certainly a Republican, and I am clearly a Democrat, we’ve forged a partnership that enables us to solve problems for the people of both Hawaii and Alaska,” Hirono stated in the video.[7]

Lingle responded to the surprise endorsement, criticizing Young as "controversial" and alluding to his past ethics issues.[8] Lingle's campaign manager Bob Lee said in a statement following Hirono's release of the new ad, "It should be troubling to the people of Hawaii that Mazie Hirono's first attempt to convey any example of bipartisanship is a video advertisement with one of the House of Representatives's most controversial members, who even Mazie's fellow Democrats have criticized on a range of ethics and spending issues."[8]

As of July 13, 2012 Lingle (R) reportedly raised $1.1 million in the second quarter[9] and Hirono (D) raised $941,000 and at the end of the cycle had $2 million cash-on-hand.[10]

Members of the U.S. House from Hawaii -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 2 2
     Republican Party 0 0
Total 2 2

State legislature

Hawaii State Senate elections, 2012 and Hawaii House of Representatives elections, 2012

There are 76 total legislative seats with elections in 2012 -- 25 Senate seats and 51 House seats.

There were 31 (40.79%) contested Democratic primaries and 7 (9.21%) contested Republican primaries. Thus, there were 38 (25.0%) races with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 25.0% figure of total contested primaries in Hawaii is higher than the current national contested average of 19.38%.


Nine Senate incumbents - all Democrats - faced a primary challenge. Two of those nine were defeated:

Democratic Party District 11: Due to redistricting, the battle for the Democratic nod was incumbent vs. incumbent as current District 11 incumbent Carol Fukunaga lost to District 10 incumbent Brian Taniguchi. Both long time senators who previously served in the House, Fukunaga has held her seat for 19 years, while Taniguchi has had his for 17.[11]
Democratic Party District 25: Facing two challengers in the primary, freshman Sen. Pohai Ryan lost to Levani Lipton and Laura Thielen. Thielen, daughter of state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R) was a director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under former Republican Governor Linda Lingle.[12] Thus, new to the Democratic party, she was unable to run for office as a Democrat, because she had not been a member of the party in good standing for at least six months. She filed anyway and is now facing internal punishment from the Democratic Party, but her candidacy was not challenged in court.[13]

Also noteworthy:

Democratic Party District 2: With incumbent Gilbert Kahele (D) running for re-election in District 1, five candidates - 4 Democrats and 1 Republican - were running to fill his open seat. Bob Herkes, Wendell Ka'ehu'ae'a, Russel Ruderman and Gary Safarik squared off on the Democratic side. In a surprise upset, Ruderman defeated Herkes, who currently represents District 5 in the House.[14][15]


Eighteen House incumbents - 16 Democrats and 2 Republicans - faced a primary challenge. Three of those 18 were defeated:

Democratic Party District 33: An incumbent vs. incumbent battle, District 33 incumbent Heather Giugni lost to District 34 incumbent K. Mark Takai. Giugni was appointed to her seat in February of this year to fill the vacancy left by Tom Okamura, who resigned due to health concerns. Takai, meanwhile, has served since 1995, including a stint as Vice-Speaker of the House.[11]
Republican Party District 47: Freshman representative Gil Riviere was defeated by Richard Fale by a margin of 50.5% to 45.2%.[16]
Democratic Party District 48: In another incumbent vs. incumbent battle, District 49 incumbent Pono Chong lost to District 47 incumbent Jessica Wooley. Chong, who first assumed office in 2005, currently serves as Majority Leader. Wooley has held her seat since 2009. She previously served as Hawaii Deputy Attorney General from 2000-2003.[17][11]

Other notable races in the House include:

Democratic Party District 40: With no incumbents drawn into the new District 40, 7 candidates - 6 Democrats and 1 Republican - ran for the seat. On the Democratic side, the six candidates were Kurt Fevella, Chris Kalani Manabat, Rose Martinez, Romy Mindo, Sam Puletasi, and Joe Rattner. Manabat took first with 27.1%, with Martinez second at 20.1%.[16]
Democratic Party District 43: Republican incumbent Kymberly Marcos Pine did not seeking re-election, leaving her seat open. District 44 incumbent Karen Leinani Awana ran in the district and faced three challengers in the primary - Hanalei Aipoalani, Leslie McKeague-Gomes, and Cynthia Rezentes. Awana took the primary easily with 43.9 percent of the vote.[16]

Hawaii State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 24 24
     Republican Party 1 1
Total 25 25

Hawaii House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 42 44
     Republican Party 8 7
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 51 51

See also

Ballotpedia News


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Hawaii News Now, "With election days away, a resignation and sickness hit Hawaii County clerk's office" accessed August 9, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 KITV "Gov. orders Hawaii Island polls extended by 90 minutes" accessed August 11, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Washington Times, "Hawaii’s August 11th primary a hot race in paradise to watch" accessed August 9, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 AP Results, "Hawaii U.S. House Primary Election Results" accessed August 12, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 AP Results, "Hawaii Senate Primary Election Results" accessed August 12, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Hill, "Hirono, Lingle win primaries, set to fight for Hawaii Senate seat" accessed August 12, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hawaii Civil Beat, "Alaska GOP Rep. Young Backs Hirono" accessed July 25, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Hill, "Lingle criticizes fellow Republican backing her Dem Senate opponent" accessed July 27, 2012
  9. Roll Call, "Hawaii: Fundraising, Dueling Polls in Senate Race" accessed July 17, 2012
  10. Roll Call, "Hawaii: Fundraising, Dueling Polls in Senate Race" accessed July 17, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Maui News, "2012 Election: Taniguchi defeats fellow incumbent Fukunaga," August 12, 2012
  12. Honolulu Star Advertiser, "Thielen beats Ryan to face Hemmings in East Oahu Senate race," August 12, 2012
  13. Star Advertiser, "Democrats won't seek to legally block Laura Thielen candidacy," June 12, 2012
  14. KPUA, "Close race predicted in Senate District 2," August 6, 2012
  15. Hawaii Tribune Herald, "Kahele beats Ikeda, Ruderman upsets Herkes," August 12, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Hawaii Secretary of State - Unofficial 2012 primary results
  17. Project Vote Smart - Rep. Wooley