A first look at ‘24

Political campaign signs are up, a sign that campaigns that fundraised in the latter part of 2023 are starting to spend their money.
PC: “Campaign Sign 2020 NY” by Mobilus In Mobili is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As the first wave of fundraising passes, signs promoting candidates are popping up all over the state, prompting us to check the status of the candidates who have pulled papers or filed for office, as of mid-April 2024. You can find a comprehensive list of all candidates who have pulled papers or have filed at the Office of Elections of the State of Hawaii, which is updated, generally, every Friday.

As notices have slowed since February, PHwSF shares observations on a select list of candidates that have shown interest in congressional and state legislative races.

Before going further, a clarification: There are two steps for a candidate to formally run for office. The first one is in pulling papers, to run. This does not mean that they will run for office, but it does show interest by a person to potentially be a candidate. The second is when they actually “file”. That means they have gone down to the elections office of their island, and formally filed to be on the ballot.

Typically, these are events in a campaign that bring out the supporters and maybe even get the media to interview the newly-filed candidate.

So, in this piece, the candidate’s designation of “pulled papers” or “filed” will be noted.

Hawaii’s Congressional Districts
PC: “Hawaii Congressional Districts, 118th Congress” by Twotwofourtysix is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

First, let’s start with the congressional

Having run against Brian Schatz the last time, Bob McDermott has pulled papers, this time to run against Mazie Hirono, who also just pulled papers, for the US Senate seat from Hawaii. If he formally files in the next couple of months, let’s see if he does more than have his name on the ballot, like he did when he ran against Brian Schatz for the other Senate congressional seat, two years ago.

Now let’s move on to the state legislative races, starting with the State Senate

The only State Senate race that could be spicy is Senate District 22 – generally the entire Waianae Coast from north of Kapolei to Kaena Point. This district was long held by Senator Maile Shimabukuro, who is stepping down and stepping aside from electoral politics. She has endorsed current House member Cedric Gates, from Waianae. 

Gates has pulled papers but has not formally filed them as of this writing.

This district almost flipped to Republicans with Samantha DeCorte coming within 72 votes of taking Maile out in 2022. DeCorte has pulled papers. Her potential opponent, Teri Kia Savainaea, has formally filed for the race.

With the House of Representatives, there is more activity, and more contests to watch, becoming an area that the savvy political pundit should watch. Here are the PHwSF observations. 

Mark Nakashima pulled papers for his District 1 office in the Big Island. Most likely he will continue to advocate for the legalization of raw milk. So far no one else has pulled or filed papers.

– House District 19 – Ola Souza has pulled papers and may try again to run for District 19 against incumbent Mark Hashem, who has also just pulled papers. But this time Souza may have a Republican competitor named Theresa Texeira, who has also just pulled papers. The last time Souza went up against Hashem, he beat her 68.3% to her 31.7% showing. 

– With Scott Nishimoto running for a seat on the Honolulu City Council – only pulling papers so far, his seat in District 23 may be up for grabs. Already there is a race on with Ikaika Olds pulling papers and putting out signs, out of the gate. Other potential candidates pulling papers include Ian Ross, Chair of the Makiki Neighborhood Board, and Pat McCain former Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation, State of Hawaii. All three are listed as Democrats. Without a candidate filing as a Republican, the primary could be the “winner take all” race for this seat. History suggests that recruiting a Republican to run for this district has been difficult.

– It looks like both incumbent Scott Saiki and challenger Kim Coco Iwamoto are looking to either re-up (for Saiki) or upset (in the case of Iwamoto) for the House 25 seat. Iwamoto got close the last couple of times to Saiki in her challenges. Already both have their signs up in the neighborhood and, with formal filings by both, round 3 may begin (they have just pulled papers as of this writing).

– While both have just pulled papers and not filed, the scuttlebutt in town suggests that this will be what voters will see in July/August on the ballot for District 37,– Tricia La Chica, the incumbent, versus the next generation of a Hawaii political dynasty, Daniel Ken Inouye Jr. An observer of politics recently posed this question about this race, “how do you slay a baby dragon?” With my dumbfounded response, the observer said “Yup, exactly”. Now that does not mean La Chica does not have an answer to this, it could be her ground game may be the key, but she may know that in political circles, this is the level of game she will need to reach to keep her seat. 

Will Ken Inouye take on the Inouye political dynasty that his father, Dan, created and continue the legacy?
PC: “RIP SENATOR DANIEL INOUYE OF HAWAII WWII VETERAN” by roberthuffstutter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

– Continuing with a focus on Mililani, the son of a Social Media master – Ryan Ozawa (remember his Lost podcasts?) has pulled papers for House District 38 against Republican incumbent Lauren Cheape Matsumoto, also just pulling papers, so far. The question will be whether Alexander Ozawa will be able to overcome the level of goodwill that Lauren currently has in the district. Or does the district go with a new young face, and flipping parties in the district to Democrat? Another Republican, Michael Kenney has also pulled papers for that race.

– Finally, two years ago, District 39 flipped from Democrat to Republican when Elijah Pierick won against Corey Rosenlee in a close race. However, Pierick actions in office have been controversial, which may affect his re-election. On the other hand, Rosenlee will have to beat Kevin Wilson and Reginald Garcia to win the Democratic ticket. All three have just pulled papers and not filed, yet, so there may be some changes in this race.

The Republican party’s position in the House and Senate was strengthened by a small red wave that flipped seats across Oahu’s west side, including District 39. This upcoming election will be a crucial test to see if the Republicans can maintain, or even increase, their stronghold against the Democrats.

One key to either the Senate or House races will be who gets the real money, from rich backers to both win their primaries and then their general contests. The funds will be out there if the list of unopposed candidates’ stay’s long.

As to the rest of the races, there are, at publication time, about 23 candidates that have either pulled papers or formally filed, with no opponents. The deadline for filing the candidate applications is June 4, 2024. It is expected between now and then, that should change. However, if no challengers emerge, the solo candidate will automatically win in the primary election, scheduled for Saturday, August 10. 

It is worth noting that Hawaii is a mail-in state, which means that ballots will be sent out by the Office of Elections starting from Tuesday, July 23. This gives voters time to complete and submit their ballots before the election day.