◼ By Derrick DePledge
Gov. Neil Abercrombie or state Sen. David Ige?
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz or U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa?
Primary voters will help direct the course of state Democratic Party politics in August in the first election since the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the dominant figure in Hawaii's political culture for half a century.
Abercrombie's re-election -- his last campaign in a political career that spans four decades -- has been complicated by an insurgent challenge from Ige, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The state's economic turnaround since the recession should bode well for Abercrombie, but the governor's job approval ratings have not tracked with the recovery. Ige has questioned the governor's leadership ability.
Abercrombie's struggles have also given political life to former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a Republican who lost to Abercrombie in 2010, and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who fell to Abercrombie in the Democratic primary in 2010 and is now running under the Hawaii Independent Party.
A three-way governor's race means that a candidate can take Washington Place with a plurality in the November general election.
Schatz, who was appointed by Abercrombie in December 2012 to replace Inouye, has argued he has already proved his effectiveness after 18 months in office.
Hanabusa, whom Inouye had wanted as his successor, has countered that she is the more experienced legislator.
The primaries for governor and U.S. Senate will test long-standing trends in Hawaii politics that reward incumbents. Since statehood no incumbent governor has lost re-election since William Quinn, a Republican, in 1962, while no incumbent U.S. senator -- appointed or elected -- has lost an election.
Hanabusa's decision to challenge Schatz has created a vacancy in urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District. Several Democrats, including state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and state Rep. K. Mark Takai, are competing in the primary to replace Hanabusa.
Former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, a Republican who once held the seat after a special election in 2010 but lost to Hanabusa in 2010 and 2012, is waiting for the Democratic winner in November.
The two primaries for lieutenant governor, meanwhile, will produce nominees that could influence the governor's race this fall.
Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, the former state Senate president who ascended to the post when Schatz was appointed to the Senate, is being challenged by state Sen. Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, who scored a string of recent legislative victories on a minimum wage increase, land conservation at Turtle Bay Resort and marriage equality.
Mary Zanakis, a former television reporter, is a long shot.
On the Republican side, Elwin Ahu, a former judge and a senior pastor at New Hope Metro, is up against Warner Kimo Sutton, a renewable energy entrepreneur and longtime party activist.
An Ahu victory and partnership with Aiona, a Catholic opposed to gay marriage, would make it almost certain that marriage equality and other social issues would be themes in the governor's race.
1959: Republican Gov. William F. Quinn defeats Democratic challenger John A. Burns in the first state election.
1962: Democrat Burns wins over incumbent Gov. Quinn.
1966: Incumbent Gov. Burns bests Republican state Sen. Randolph Crossley.
1970: Burns defeats former Family Court Judge Sam King, a Republican.
1974: Former Lt. Gov. George Ariyoshi, a Democrat, bests former GOP state Sen. Crossley.
1978: Incumbent Gov. Ariyoshi comes out ahead of Republican state Sen. John Leopold.
1982: Democrat Ariyoshi wins over Independent Democrat Frank Fasi, former Honolulu mayor, and GOP state Sen. D.G. "Andy" Anderson.
1986: Lt. Gov. John Waihee, a Democrat, defeats Republican Anderson.
1990: Incumbent Gov. Waihee bests former Republican state Rep. Fred Hemmings.
1994: Lt. Gov. Ben Cayetano, a Democrat, wins over former GOP U.S. Rep. Pat Saiki.
1998: Incumbent Gov. Cayetano comes out ahead of Maui Mayor Linda Lingle.
2002: Former Maui Mayor Lingle, a Republican, defeats Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono.
2006: Incumbent Gov. Lingle bests former state Sen. and City Councilman Randy Iwase, a Democrat.
2010: Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, defeats GOP Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.
Candidates with an asterisk (*) are incumbents. Uncontested and disqualified candidates are not included as part of the guide.
POLITICAL KEY (D) Democrat. (R) Republican. (I) Independent. (L) Libertarian. (G) Green. (N) Nonpartisan.
Published July 27, 2014, The Primary Election Guide is the first of two guides during an election year. We've provided a replica of the print edition for reference. Corrections and clarifications after the guide was sent to press appear on the website. View it now »