Hawaii’s Election Season Is About To Takeoff Starting June 7, Stayed Tuned, Get Informed

June 7 is the candidate filing deadline for Hawaii’s primary election which will be held on Saturday, August 13. Already we’re seeing early tremors – some that were predictable like former Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell dropping out of the governor’s race; and some surprising developments like U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele announcing a late run for governor.

Now with Caldwell out, who many believe his supporters were caught between making a choice for him or former First Lady and businesswoman Vicky Cayetano, the big question is: “has Vicky’s chances turned blue chip?” She has already raised considerable money.

Election Domino Effect

This election is arguably one of the most crucial in Hawaii politics in decades. Besides it being a governor’s race with no incumbent in the mix, a large contingent of Hawaii state senators and representatives are either retiring or seeking higher offices. This is opening doors for vertical and lateral movement of all types, and even a window for newcomers to sneak in and win a spot.

Some of the more notable political migration: Sylvia Luke, chair of the powerful House Finance Committee is running for Lt. Governor; vacancies have been left by Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. Ty Cullen over their bribery scandals; longtime Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott is running for U.S. Senate. With state senators Clarence Nishihara, Brian Taniguchi and Roz Baker all retiring, this leaves open seats at Hawaii’s highest legislative chamber.

And on top of this, all 76 seats at the State Legislature are up for grabs this election due to redistricting.

Filipino Candidates in major races
There are too many Filipino-American candidates to discuss them all now and the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle will be giving more coverage on them later.  For now, there have been two major developments to mention at this time: Hawaii state Rep. Patrick Branco is running for U.S. Congress, Hawaii District 2; and newcomer to politics but a serious contender Sergio Alcubilla is running for U.S. Congress, Hawaii District 1.

Currently no Filipino-American has been elected to Hawaii congress so these two races are attracting considerable attention within our community; and not only because of their ethnicity but for their qualification and platform.

It’s also of interest to our community that longtime Waipahu State representative (since November 2008) Henry Aquino is running for State Senate, District 19.

COVID-19 response and the 2022 legislative session

This midterm will also be a referendum on incumbents in office and how they’ve responded to the needs of our community during the peak periods of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As elections are often a short-term memory race, this past 2022 legislative session accomplishments or lack thereof will also be heavily weighed in this midterm.

Incumbents who voted for raising the state’s minimum wage, an overwhelmingly popular legislation, will get a thumbs up. It bodes well for them to capitalize on it in campaign literature and meet-and-greet sessions.

For our Filipino community, many who work in the service industry, they have watched this debate for years now and with its passage finally, the minimum wage hike could be a strong deciding factor in the midterm. The increase of the state’s minimum wage will peak at $18 an hour by 2028. Hawaii’s minimum wage is currently $10.10 an hour. The bill would raise the rate in increments over the next several years, starting with $12 on Oct. 1.

The powerful Native Hawaiian voting block will be pleased with this session of the State Legislature because it infused nearly $1 billion toward Native Hawaiian issues.

Also as small and insignificant it is in the big picture of politics, a few voters – not passionate about politics – might see the $300 tax rebate per person (up from the original proposal of $100) as a reason to throw their support behind a candidate. For those believing that amount is paltry, this could hurt incumbents.

There are legislation after legislation from expanding broadband to aquaculture (so many budget items passed this session because of the state’s surplus, largely due to the previous session’s federal COVID-19 aid to states) that some state lawmakers can present to the public to win favor for reelection.

Eagle eyes scrutiny

Even with far more opportunities to reshape Hawaii politics in this particular election relative to past years, experts believe Hawaii politics is still very much entrenched and stable. That is, of course, if those expected to win actually win.

We see how federal dollars played a major role in funding state budgets and practically all aspects of societal functioning from municipal support, non-profits, and let’s not forget businesses that received major boosts in PPP and other grants.

Besides the governorship as the single most transformative public office, it’s crucial that Hawaii voters look very closely at the federal races: the U.S. Senate and two congressional races. These races have far-reaching impact.

The midterm election season has already commenced on the mainland with recent primaries held or soon to be held. Hawaii’s primary is relatively late in comparison. But the midterm fervor is about to get much hotter as soon as the final field of candidates is set after June 7.

We’ll be keeping you posted.

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