Mazie Hirono and Tulsi Gabbard prevailed in the state’s most hotly contested Democrat primary races Saturday evening.
Hirono defeated Ed Case for the party’s nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. Hirono will face Republican nominee Linda Lingle, the former two-term governor who easily won her bid for the GOP nomination over long-time Hawaii political candidate John Carroll.
In the race to replace Hirono, who vacated the 2nd Congressional District seat to run for Senate, Gabbard defeated former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Republican Kawika Crowley prevailed in the GOP primary, defeating challenger Matt DeGeronimo. The district includes the neighbor islands and rural Oahu.
Hirono jumped out to an early lead over Case, taking about 17,000 more votes than Case with about 7 percent of precincts reporting. The gap widened just before 9 p.m., with Case conceding the loss at about 9:15 p.m., just after the Elections Office released its second printout of ballot results.
The final results put Hirono ahead 132,865 votes to 94,294 votes, winning 58 percentage of the ballots cast.
Hirono immediately shifted her focus from Case to Lingle, telling her supporters what a Sen. Lingle would mean for Hawaii.
“So whatever you may think of Linda Lingle – know that this is what her election would represent – one of the four seats the national Republicans need to take control of the U.S. Senate,” Hirono said, in an emailed statement after making televised remarks.
Lingle took a similar tact in her victory speech. She defeated Carroll handily, getting 43,637 votes to his 2,846, or 92 percent of the Republican votes.
“The choice is crystal clear,” Lingle said in remarks streamed live online. “My opponent and her entire team want to make this about President Obama. I am not going to Washington to be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. I’m going for the people of Hawaii.”
National pundits are calling the Hawaii Senatorial race “winnable” for the GOP, Lingle said.
“Let’s go make history together,” she said.
Case said the loss “isn’t the end” for Hawaii residents hoping to see change in Congress.
“Let’s go out and make our world a better place,” he said.
For the Democratic nomination to run in the state’s second congressional district, political veteran Hannemann took on relative newcomer Gabbard.
Gabbard moved ahead of Hannemann early on, with about 5,000 more votes with 5 percent of precincts reporting. She finished the night with 61,803 votes, or 55 percent of the ballots cast in the crowded Democratic primary that featured six candidates. Hannemann got 38,451 votes, or 34 percent. Gabbard said she didn’t expect to defeat Hannemann by such a wide margin.
“We have taken nothing for granted,” Gabbard said. “We always expected it would be a close race. The people have made a clear choice for fresh leadership.”
She thanked her supporters and volunteers, and said she viewed the nomination as a responsibility she takes very seriously.
Gabbard focused her campaign on environmental issues, winning the Sierra Club’s endorsement, and on ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
Hannemann put the spotlight on his political career, but focused less on his time as the City and County of Honolulu mayor and more on his experiences working in Washington, D.C., under two Democratic and two Republican presidents.
He thanked his supporters for their help during the campaign, and noted he ran a “clean campaign,” with a focus on issues, not attack ads. He acknowledged that he would rather be celebrating a win Saturday evening than facing a loss, but noted his faith and said perhaps the “heavenly father” did not want Hannemann to win.
“You win some, you lose some,” Hannemann added. “With each experience, you learn from it.”