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Battle for open Hawaii seat splits Democratic House groups

Hispanic Caucus supporting Branco, while progressives back Tokuda

Freshman Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele's decision to run for governor led to a competitive primary in Hawaii's 2nd District to succeed him.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele's decision to run for governor led to a competitive primary in Hawaii's 2nd District to succeed him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Hawaii voters will choose who is likely to be the state’s next House member on Saturday, while its other House member and one of its Democratic senators face primary challenges. 

Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele announced earlier this year he would run for governor, a race he isn’t expected to win, rather than seek a second term in the House

That opened up a six-way race for his 2nd District seat, with the contest primarily focused on  state Rep. Patrick Branco and former state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018.

Tokuda has the fundraising edge. She reported raising $528,000 as of July 24 and had $90,000 on hand. She loaned her campaign $25,000. Branco reported raising $153,000 and had $33,000 on hand.

But there’s been significant outside spending in the race that has helped to raise Branco’s profile, and a split among some incumbent House Democrats about who to support.

Outside groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC, the cryptocurrency-linked Web3 Forward PAC, Mainstream Democrats PAC and VoteVets, spent $598,000 supporting Branco and $603,000 opposing Tokuda. The Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and Medicare for All PAC, which is tied to CPC Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, spent a combined $199,000 supporting Tokuda. 

Tokuda has raised $19,000 so far from House and Senate incumbents’ leadership PACs, including $5,000 from Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and $4,000 from New York Rep. Mondaire Jones, according to politicalmoneyline.com. Branco has raised $7,000 from incumbents’ PACs, including $2,500 from Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego and $1,500 from California Rep. Linda Sanchez.   

Two Republicans are also seeking the nomination for the 2nd District. Joseph Webster, whose personal loan to his campaign accounts for $60,000 of the $62,000 he raised,  told Honolulu Civil Beat that he knows the race is a longshot for a Republican and says on his campaign website that he is a “Republican like you’ve never met before.” Joseph Akana, the other Republican on the ballot, ran against Kahele in 2020 and got 31 percent of the vote. 

In the 1st District, Rep. Ed Case, a Blue Dog Democrat who was first elected to the seat in 2018, faces a primary challenge from Sergio Alcubilla, an attorney and nonprofit leader. Case reported raising $841,000 and had $475,000 on hand as of July 24, while Alcubilla had raised $107,000 and had $6,000 on hand as of June 30. 

Our Hawaii PAC spent $24,000 supporting Alcubilla.

Three Republicans are running in the 1st District, but just one, Conrad Kress, reported any fundraising to the Federal Election Commission. Kress raised $45,000 as of July 24 and had $17,000 on hand. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates both Hawaii House seats as Solid Democratic. 

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz also faces a primary challenge from Steve Tataii, an independent conflict resolution consultant. Schatz raised $4.3 million and had $3.5 million on hand as of July 24, according to FEC filings, while Tataii did not file with the FEC, meaning his campaign did not reach the $5,000 threshold for money raised or spent. 

Five Republicans are on the ballot to take on Schatz, but just one, Marine veteran Timothy Dalhouse, has reported raising any money. Dalhouse reported raising $154,000 as of July 24. Of that, $150,000 was a personal loan to his campaign.

Inside Elections also rates the Senate seat Solid Democratic.

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