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Ed Case’s Comeback Bid Continues in Hawaii Race for Hanabusa’s Seat

Former congressman wins crowded Democratic primary in 1st District

Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa lost her bid for governor Saturday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa lost her bid for governor Saturday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 7:52 a.m. | Former Rep. Ed Case won the Democratic nomination in Hawaii’s open 1st District on Saturday night, and is likely returning to Congress next year to represent the deep-blue seat. Case previously served two terms in the House from the 2nd District.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Case led a seven-way primary field with 40 percent of the vote, The Associated Press reported. Lt. Gov. Doug Chin and state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim trailed behind with 26 percent and 18 percent respectively.

Incumbent Colleen Hanabusa vacated the Honolulu-anchored seat to run for governor, but her bid ended Saturday after she lost to Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary. Hanabusa is now the sixth member of the House this cycle to have lost a statewide bid, joining GOP Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita of Indiana, Evan Jenkins of West Virginia, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho and Diane Black of Tennessee. 

Case will next face Republican Cam Cavasso, who easily won his primary Saturday. But the former state representative will be the heavy underdog against Case in a district Hillary Clinton carried by 33 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Solid Democratic.

The Democratic primary got some national attention earlier this week when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upset House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley in a New York primary in June, traveled to the district to campaign for state Rep. Kaniela Ing, a self-identified democratic socialist who was also endorsed by Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Ro Khanna of California. He finished fifth in Saturday’s primary.

Case was first elected to the House in a 2002 special election to replace the late Democratic Rep. Patsy T. Mink in the 2nd District, which includes most of Oahu and all other Hawaii islands. He gave up the seat in 2006 to challenge Sen. Daniel K. Akaka in a Democratic primary, but was unsuccessful. Two further attempts at a congressional comeback were also unsuccessful — he finished third in a 2010 special election for the 1st District won by Republican Charles K. Djou, and he lost a 2012 Democratic Senate primary to Mazie K. Hirono.

Case was a late entrant to the race, pulling papers to run a day before the June 5 filing deadline. But with high name ID, he quickly earned front-runner status, and led the field in two recent polls of the 1st District primary. He raised $354,000 as of July 22, the end of the pre-primary reporting period, including a $151,000 loan to his campaign. He ended the period with $21,000 in the bank.

As a congressman, Case had a reputation for being a moderate. He was a member of the New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dog Democrats. After leaving Congress, Case worked as an attorney and most recently as senior vice president and chief legal officer for Outrigger Hotels Hawaii.

He recently completed a walk across the entire 1st District, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported, and celebrated with a dive into the ocean. The newspaper endorsed his campaign last month

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Meanwhile, in the 2nd District, Democratic incumbent Tulsi Gabbard easily fended off a primary challenge from her left in her bid for a fourth term.

With early votes reporting, Gabbard led activist Sherry Alu Campagna 84 percent to 12 percent, according to the AP. She next meets Republican Brian Evans, who ran unopposed in the GOP primary. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democratic.

Hirono, Hawaii’s junior senator, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and will be heavily favored in her Solid Democratic general election race against retired engineer Ron Curtis, who came through a crowded GOP primary Saturday, with 24 percent of the vote. 

Correction 2:59 p.m. | An earlier version of his story misstated the significance of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s loss. She is the sixth House member to  lose a statewide bid this cycle, not a governor’s race.

Correction 4:35 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated the number of House members who’ve lost statewide bids this cycle. 

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