Civil Beat Guide: 2022 Is A Big Year For Politics And Elections In Hawaii

Politics, government and democracy take center stage this year in the islands. Hawaii voters have the opportunity to select a new governor this year, as Gov. David Ige is completing his second and final term in December. The lieutenant governor position is open as well.

Voters will also have the chance to vote for one of the state’s two U.S. senators and both members in the U.S. House of Representatives. And all 76 seats at the Hawaii State Legislature are open, thanks to the reapportionment that happens every 10 years based on the latest U.S. Census.

There are nonpartisan county council races in all four counties as well as mayoral contests in Kauai and Maui counties. A runoff is required if one mayoral candidate does not get more than 50% of the total votes cast in their particular race. Each county has its own system for determining which council candidates advance to the general election on Nov. 8.

And nonpartisan contests will be held for some of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee seats. OHA races also have provisions for runoffs.

The primary election is always the most important in Hawaii because the state is so heavily dominated by one political party — the Democrats. A number of the state level races for the House and Senate will be decided in the primary, which is Aug. 13.

Hawaii has historically had one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country. But that changed dramatically in 2020 when Hawaii implemented mail-in balloting statewide. Overall voter participation was the highest it had been since 1994, although it still lags behind the tremendous turnout rates after statehood in 1959.

Ballots for the primary are expected to begin arriving in the mail July 26. Completed ballots must be received by the County Elections Division by close of voting — 7 p.m. — on Aug. 13.

The County Elections Divisions also provide voter service centers that will be open 10 days prior to and on election day. Services include accessible in-person voting and same-day registration. And there are also drop box locations in all the counties.

This map from the state Office of Elections shows the locations of voting centers and drop boxes:

Voters are also able to register online to vote. The deadline to register to vote for the Aug. 13 primary is Aug. 3.

If you miss the deadline to register for the election, you can still walk in and register before and on election day (with proper ID or documentation of your residency) at Voter Service Centers, which will be open Aug. 1 through Aug. 13 for the primary.

You can find the dates for early voting and the steps and deadline to request an absentee ballot on the state Office of Elections website.

The 2022 Races

You can read the full list of candidates who will be on the primary ballot here. Some candidates who filed before the June 7 deadline will only be on the general election ballot, depending on how many others filed in their race.

No U.S. senator from Hawaii has ever lost reelection, and only one U.S. representative from Hawaii failed to get reelected. Such is the power of incumbency in Hawaii, especially for majority Democrats.

But four Republicans are vying to be their party’s nominee to run against the Democratic nominee, which will be either Sen. Brian Schatz, who has held the seat since late 2012, or one other Democrat who is also in the field. Three candidates from third parties — the Green, Libertarian and Aloha Aina parties — are also in the hunt, as are a few nonpartisan candidates.

Republicans, third party and nonpartisan candidates are also vying to represent Hawaii in both the 1st Congressional District (the greater Honolulu area) and the 2nd Congressional District (the rest of Oahu and all the neighbor islands).

In the CD1 Democratic primary, Rep. Ed Case faces Sergio Alcubilla, a political newcomer. In CD2, former state Sen. Jill Tokuda is up against state House Rep. Pat Branco and four other Democrats.

Representative Sylvia Luke speaks during floor session honoring some lawmakers that were leaving office.
Representative Sylvia Luke spoke during a floor session in early May honoring some lawmakers that were leaving office. They include Luke, who is running for lieutenant governor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Rep. Kai Kahele, who represents CD2, surprised many when he decided not to seek a second term in Congress to instead run for governor. He takes on Lt. Gov. Josh Green, former First Lady Vicky Cayetano and four other Democrats in the primary.

On the GOP side, 10 candidates are running in the Republican primary for governor. The contest includes former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, former mixed-martial arts fighter BJ Penn and Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi.

Three GOP candidates and one nonpartisan candidate are in the race for lieutenant governor, but the focus is mostly on the four of the six Democrats who are fairly well known political figures: state Rep. Sylvia Luke, former Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson, Sherry Menor-McNamara of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii and former insurance executive Keith Amemiya.

At the Hawaii Legislature all 25 Senate seats and 51 House seats are up due to reapportionment, which redraws district lines every 10 years based on the latest census data. While House seats are always for two years, the four-year Senate seats will be staggered: Districts 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23 and 24 will serve a two-year term beginning in 2023 while Districts 2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21 and 25 will serve a four-year term. The 12 seats up for election in 2024 will then resume the normal four-year term.

Departures of top lawmakers such as Sen. Roz Baker and Rep. Sylvia Luke mean there will be leadership changes in the 2023 legislative session. There are also many incumbents seeking reelection, a good many unopposed.

16-year-old Cross Su’e-Kepilino sits inside the Capitol Rotunda before first opening day session at the Legislature.
Opening day at the Capitol Rotunda in January. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

All of the seats on the seven-member Kauai County Council, the nine-member Hawaii County Council and the nine-member Maui County Council are up this year, as are four of the seats on the nine-member Honolulu City Council. There are also races for mayor in Kauai and Maui counties where incumbents Derek Kawakami and Mike Victorino, respectively, face several challengers.

Six of the nine seats on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees are up this year: three at-large seats and one seat each representing Hawaii Island, Oahu and Maui. Incumbents seeking reelection include Mililani Trask, John Waihee IV, Brendon Kalei‘aina Lee, Leiana‘ala Ahu Isa and Kalei Akaka.

There will not be any constitutional amendment questions on the general election ballot in 2022. But Hawaii and Kauai county are considering amendments to their respective governing charters. There may also be charter questions from Maui and Oahu counties, and this guide will be updated once that is determined.

If the proposed charter amendments are adopted, the approved language of the ballot questions are due to the Hawaii State Elections Office on Aug. 25.

Civil Beat’s Election Guide

The Hawaii Office of Elections website is the best place to find any information you need about the elections including how and when to register, how to find your polling place and when you can begin casting your ballot.

You can keep up with all of Civil Beat’s coverage as the election season progresses in our Hawaii Elections 2022 Guide.

Meanwhile, here are some other resources we’ve put together to help you through the 2020 elections:

Unofficial 2022 Primary Election Ballot: Our way to help you keep track of races and candidates in your district. We are once again sending out questionnaires to candidates, asking them to give us their positions on key issues that are particular to the office they’re running for. You will be able to find links to these Q&As on this page.

Hawaii Civics 101: Our series of short, explainer videos helps you understand politics, government and democracy in the Aloha State.

The Civil Beat Poll: We conduct our own independent polls on a variety of topics and issues as election season moves along. Watch for the first of the 2022 election season to be published in late June. Check here to read what Hawaii has said about statewide and local races and issues in previous polls.

Civil Beat Politics: Learn more about candidates and issues by joining our Facebook Group, Civil Beat Politics. We aim to promote civil — yet spirited — discussion of and participation in the 2020 election. You can air your thoughts on campaigns, candidates and issues along with your friends, colleagues and even political rivals. But it’s also a place to connect with others in the community who want to become more active in this year’s elections.

Voter Education And Turnout

Get information and help from these organizations:

League of Women Voters of Hawaii

Pew Charitable Trusts/Research Center

Vote Smart

Campaign Finance Resources

Both the state and the federal government impose contribution limits when giving directly to candidates. Money has been flowing to candidates and political committees for the 2020 elections. You can follow the money yourself on a number of online campaign and political sites:

Federal candidates and committees:

• Center for Responsive Politics

• Federal Election Commission

• Campaign Finance Institute

State candidates and committees:

• Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission

• National Institute on Money In State Politics

Elections Offices Statewide

These offices oversee the elections in Hawaii:

Hawaii Office of Elections

City and County of Honolulu

Hawaii County

Maui County

Kauai County

Political Parties

Democratic Party of Hawaii

Hawaii Republican Party

Libertarian Party of Hawaii

The Green Party of Hawaii

Aloha Aina Party

Constitution Party of Hawaii

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