6 Things We Didn’t Expect from Hawai‘i’s 2018 General Election

Seesaw local races; emotional speeches and a decent turnout.
David Ige


It’s OK to admit that we weren’t expecting a LOT of excitement this general election in Hawai‘i. But close races as well as fiery and emotional speeches made for a pretty interesting Tuesday night.


We know most of us are ready to put aside the politics and move directly into holiday mode. (Some fleece for a rainy day, some baking and a Hallmark holiday movie, stat!) So, here’s our quick scorecard before we move on.


READ ALSO: U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Life as a National Lightning Rod Ahead of Election Day


David Ige
Photo: Chelsey yadao / Team David Ige


  • And now there is one. Hawai‘i Republicans grabbed a Senate seat when Kurt Fevella beat former state Rep. Matthew LoPresti by just 117 votes. Of course, LoPresti was captured on doorbell video removing an opponent’s flyer from a door and tucking it under his own stack of papers, leading Democratic primary opponent Alicia Maluafiti and others to cry foul. This ‘Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point district seat opened when former state Sen. Will Espero quit to run for lieutenant governor but ultimately lost. After GOP stalwart former Sen. Sam Slom lost, the Senate had 25 Democrats and no Republican.

  • Down to the wire. City Councilmember Trevor Ozawa kept his seat by a mere 22 votes, edging out former state Rep. Tommy Waters in another rematch. Ozawa was ahead on the first results and the last while Waters took the lead from evening until the 4 a.m. final count after being ahead and behind all night.

  • Longtime former state Rep. Marilyn Lee, a longtime nurse, lost her comeback bid to newcomer young Republican Val Okimoto, a substitute teacher. The seat in state House District 36, which includes Mililani and Mililani Mauka, opened when Rep. Beth Fukumoto ran for a U.S. House seat unsuccessfully, instead of seeking re-election. That meant the number of Republicans in the state House stayed at 5 of 51.

  • Gov. David Ige was both emotional and more focused on his goals than he had been for much of the hard-fought campaign. A tearful Ige thanked his supporters and family and then talked about his priority goals.

  • His Republican opponent, Andria Tupola, gave a long but rousing speech that sounded like one designed to bring together the troops at the start of a campaign. Here’s hoping that means she’s energized to stay active and help breath more life into the party with the idea that competition sharpens while complacency dulls.

  • Turnout: not record but not dismal. Of 756,751 registered, 398,398 or 52.6 percent turned out 52.6%, with 174,867 23.1 at the precincts and 223,531 or 29.5 percent absentee, better than recent nonpresidential election years. State elections officials noted that the 2008 General Election saw the highest with Hawai‘i-raised Barack Obama winning the presidency.


Andria Tupola
Gov. David Ige's Republican opponent, Andria Tupola, gave a long but rousing speech that sounded like one designed to bring together the troops at the start of a campaign.
Photo: Courtesy of Andria Tupola for Governor 2018


1998 – 412,520

2000 – 371,033

2002 – 385,462

2004 – 431,662

2006 – 348,988

2008 – 456,064

2010 – 385,464

2012 – 436,683

2016 – 437,664

2018 – 398,398


Three things that we totally expected:

Sen Mazie Hirono
Photo: David Croxford


  • National news organizations started “calling” some of the least controversial races before the polls closed. But announcing that Gov. David Ige, Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard would likely win was about as insightful as forecasting an increase in housing prices and predicting mauka showers.

  • More people voted at home or at early walk-in voting centers than at their neighborhood precincts on Election Day. Most mailed their ballots.

  • The ballot questions would fail. The Constitutional Convention idea was opposed by a wide swath of people who feared it could be taken over by the best-funded special interest, those who thought it would be too expensive and those who spent a lot of money to oppose it. The Supreme Court invalidated the education question. And in Honolulu, voters either didn’t understand the transit housekeeping measure or chose to ignore it.