ANALYSIS — Hawaii is one of the only states with more than one House seat where congressional district lines don’t matter all that much.
At the most basic level, Hawaii is a very Democratic state. Joe Biden won it by 30 points, 64 percent to 34 percent, in 2020 and the GOP presidential nominee hasn’t won Hawaii since President Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection victory in 1984, when he won all but one state and the District of Columbia.
In the nearly 40 years since, the GOP high-water marks were President George W. Bush's 45 percent in 2004 and his father's 45 percent in 1988. More recently, Hawaii Democrats have a nearly 40-point partisan edge (68 percent to 29 percent), according to the Inside Elections Baseline metric, which uses a trimmed mean of all statewide and congressional races over the last four cycles.
Not only are there not many GOP voters, but Republicans are dispersed throughout the state, making it difficult for a concentration to have power in a single district.
Hawaii has had two House seats for all but the first four years since it became a state in 1959. And Hawaii voters almost always elect a Democrat to Congress. There have been 66 House elections since Hawaii became a state. Democrats won all but three of them. That’s a 95 percent clip.
One of the three GOP victories was in May 2010 and ended up being a precursor to a GOP wave that November that saw Republicans gain 63 seats nationwide. Even though the political climate is pointing to another good or great GOP cycle, Republicans are unlikely to win a seat in Hawaii.
There’s no special election like in 2010, and even in the 2010 race, Republican Charles Djou won with just 39 percent because Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case split Democratic voters, who made up a majority of the electorate. Djou lost reelection to a full term that fall, even though Republicans were trouncing Democrats most everywhere else.
Biden won both of Hawaii’s districts by a nearly uniform margin. He won Democratic Rep. Case’s 1st District 63.8 percent to 34.5 percent and Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele’s 2nd District 63.6 percent to 34 percent, according to Daily Kos Elections. The two districts were virtually unchanged during the redistricting process, so the strong Democratic performance for each seat remains intact. And both races in 2022 are rated as Solid Democratic.
The main drama this cycle could be in the Aug. 13 primary in the 2nd District if Kahele decides to run for governor. The sitting governor, Democrat David Ige, is term-limited and the congressman is considering giving up the commute to Capitol Hill to stay home and govern the state. If it’s an open seat, multiple Democrats are likely to jump at the opportunity. And they aren’t likely to be limited by geography. Case represented the 2nd District in the mid-2000s and was elected to the 1st District in 2018. The filing deadline is June 7.
Races rated Solid Democratic
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.