Progressive former state Sen. Jill Tokuda won Saturday’s Democratic primary for Hawaii’s open 2nd District, overcoming $1.2 million spent against her by outside groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC.
Tokuda defeated state Rep. Patrick Branco and four other candidates, and is the favorite to be in the next Congress with a November race rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Tokuda had 59 percent of the vote to Branco’s 25 percent with an estimated 93 percent counted. The Associated Press called the race at 3:21 a.m.Eastern time Sunday.
Tokuda had support from Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono and some of the House’s most progressive members donated through their leadership PACs, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. The progressive group’s independent expenditure arm spent $179,000 on ads to back her and Jayapal's leadership PAC spent another $20,000. But spending against her or for Branco totaled $1.2 million and came from such groups as BOLD PAC, Mainstream Democrats PAC, VoteVets and the cryptocurrency-backed group Web3 Forward.
Tokuda told Hawaii News Now she was humbled by her winning margin and that her campaign heard from voters who were turned off by the tone of the race.
“We can run tough campaigns, we can talk about issues, but let’s do so with civility and aloha and respect. And there was just a lot of pushback that we got for the negative campaigns, the lack of focus on the real issues, and more importantly, not putting them at the center of the election,” she said. “People said, ‘Enough’s enough, Hawaii’s not for sale, this is our congressional seat.’”
The 2nd District seat is open because freshman Rep. Kai Kahele opted to run for governor instead of reelection to the House. He finished third in the gubernatorial primary with 14 percent, behind Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who had 64 percent, and former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano, who had 21 percent.
Tokuda had unsuccessfully challenged Green in the 2018 primary for lieutenant governor. In November, she will face Republican Joe Akana, who defeated Joseph Webster in the GOP primary, 83 percent to 17 percent. That a was race called by The AP a minute after the Democratic primary. Akana ran against Kahele in 2020 and lost, 63 percent to 31 percent.
Case, Schatz renominated
In the 1st District, Rep. Ed Case won the Democratic nomination for a third term, taking 85 percent of the vote against challenger Sergio Alcubilla, who had 16 percent. That race was called by the AP at 2:01 a.m. Eastern time. (Case also previously served in the House from 2002 to 2007.)
Conrad Kress won the Republican nomination, taking 49 percent of the vote against two challengers when the race was called at 4:53 a.m. Eastern time. Inside Elections rates the 1st District race as Solid Democratic.
The state also has a Senate race this year, although it is not expected to be competitive. Sen. Brian Schatz had 94 percent of the vote in his bid for the nomination for a second full term against a challenger, Steve Tataii, who raised no money. Schatz will face Republican Bob McDermott, who also reported no fundraising but won the five-candidate GOP primary. Schatz reported having $3.5 million on hand as of July 24. Inside Elections rates the race as Solid Democratic.