Hawaii 2018 primaries: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supports Democratic Socialist Kaniela Ing

Hawaii's primary race reflects the Democratic Party's nationwide divides

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 15 October 2018 14:59 BST
Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and congressional candidate Kaniela Ing stand for a portrait before a campaign event in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 9, 2018.
Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and congressional candidate Kaniela Ing stand for a portrait before a campaign event in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., August 9, 2018. (REUTERS)

Centrist politicians, Democratic Socialists, Never Trumpers — and lava. Hawaii politicians are fighting tooth and nail for last-minute votes in a primary election that reflects the divides seen within the Democratic Party nationwide.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist who unseated a 10-term incumbent during a primary election in New York, visited the Big Island yesterday to stump for Kaniela Ing, a fellow Democratic Socialist and Hawaii Congressional candidate.

The 29-year-old state representative is campaigning throughout the Democratic stronghold on a host of progressive causes, including Medicare-for-all, free college tuition and cancelling student debts. He’s joined in the race by Ed Case, a 65-year-old former representative who is well-known throughout the region for his fiscally conservative policies.

Doug Chin, the state’s former attorney general, is another candidate who gained notoriety in Hawaii after filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump’s administration for its travel restrictions against several Muslim-majority nations.

The open governor's seat has also spurred a tight race between two Democrats who are career politicians, including one-term incumbent David Ige and Colleen Hanabusa, the state's current Congressional representative.

Meanwhile, Hawaii's Republican Party has failed to field candidates in each of its legislative districts. Republican representative Andria Tupola is vying for the party’s nomination in Saturday’s primary, along with Ray L’Heureux, the former CEO of a Pearl Harbour nonprofit.

As lava continued to flow from the Kilauea volcano — a natural disaster that’s destroyed hundreds of homes and public buildings — elected officials have grown increasingly concerned about voter turnout.

Democratic Ocasio-Cortez won her primary in New York's 14th district

"I don't believe the voters had a fair chance to get to know the candidates," Ric Wirick, who is running for city council, told CBS News. Authorities at the state Office of Elections initially decided to mail out 6,000 ballots and conduct the primaries in two precincts exclusively via mail, before a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union forced it to establish a polling place in Pahoa.

"People are still scrambling. They're still in a bit of shock," Eileen O’Hara, an incumbent city councilwoman running for re-election, also told the news outlet. "Their attention is not focused on the election.”

Still, candidates like Mr Ing are hoping for strong turnouts among voters who typically don’t participate in primaries for midterm elections.

"Two weeks before my race, I was polling 35 points down," Ms Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday, speaking at a campaign event for Mr Ing — the largest political event for a Hawaii candidate in years. "And we changed that in two weeks because we were talking to people who hadn’t been excited about the political process before."

Polling closes on Saturday at 6.00pm local time. The winners of Saturday's primaries will then face off in the November 2018 midterm elections.

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