HONOLULU (AP) – For their 16th wedding anniversary, Hawaii Democrats gave Josh Green and his wife, Jaime, a comfortable margin of victory in Saturday’s gubernatorial primary.
Green, the state’s current lieutenant governor, easily defeated former first lady Vicky Cayetano and Kaiali’I Kahele, who decided to seek the governor’s office instead of a second term in the state House united
Green, wearing a lei of yellow and purple flowers and green leaves piled up to her neck, alternated between throwing her fists in the air and giving the shaka signal to a boisterous crowd of supporters at her victory party.
“By November, we will win the governorship and lead Hawaii forward,” he told the cheering crowd.
He will face former Republican Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who defeated mixed martial arts championship fighter BJ Penn in his party’s primary, in the general election.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Aiona said her supporters “trusted in my ability to lead the state, and I’m really, really thankful and grateful for that.”
Green has been second-in-command for the past four years to Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who has already served two terms and is not eligible to run for re-election.
The winner of the Democratic primary is favored to win the general election in the liberal state.
Many voters said high housing costs in Hawaii were a top issue for them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the median price of a single-family home exceeded $1 million in Honolulu, Maui and Kauai counties.
To address the housing shortage, Green said he would issue an executive order to cut red tape and streamline building approvals and enforce existing laws to shut down illegal vacation rentals.
Aiona said he would eliminate the state Land Use Commission, which he blamed for slowing housing development.
Herbert Rowland, a construction worker from Oahu, said he likes Green’s plans to address Hawaii’s housing and homelessness problem.
“I’m from this island, I’ve been here all my life. I don’t want my kids to move off this island because it’s too expensive and they can’t find a house,” Rowland said recently while holding a green campaign sign and hailed passing cars in Honolulu.
Aiona supporter Viola Alipio said she believes he will address rising crime in the state. Earlier in her career, Aiona served as a Family Court and Circuit Court judge. He spearheaded the Hawaii Drug Court program, which offers rehabilitation to non-violent offenders as an alternative to prison.
“I know him very well. I know their values; everything fits my values. Family, honesty, transparency,” he said at a recent Aiona event in Kailua.
Green was a state senator and representative before serving as lieutenant governor. He was a doctor in the rural areas of the Big Island before entering politics. He has continued to work part-time as a physician while in the state Legislature and as lieutenant governor.
Green developed a following during the COVID-19 pandemic for his explanations of infection rates and trends and hospital treatment capacity.
The state’s largest unions endorsed his candidacy in the primary, including the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii State Teachers Association.
The race heated up when Kahele and Cayetano questioned the income Green received while serving as lieutenant governor of a limited liability company called Green Health International LLC. Green, who has continued his side job as an emergency room doctor while serving as lieutenant governor, said the money was for the work he performed as a doctor.
Kahele drew attention this year for his own side job as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and his heavy use of delegate voting in Congress. Like everyone else who has voted by proxy, he sent a mandatory letter certifying that he “couldn’t physically vote” at the Capitol. He cited “the ongoing public health emergency.”
Green was born in Kingston, New York, and grew up in Pittsburgh. He moved to Hawaii with the National Health Service Corps in 2000.
Kahele’s decision to run for governor opened up his congressional seat representing rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.
Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda beat state Rep. Patrick Pihana Branco for the Democratic nomination for the seat, Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.
Among the Republicans, former US Air Force intelligence analyst and businessman Joe Akana defeated business owner Joseph Webster.
Hawaii is a vote-by-mail state, so voters began mailing their ballots and placing them in mailboxes across the islands late last month. Election clerks in each county made a number of voter service centers available for people registering to vote at the last minute or voting in person.
In the 1st Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Ed Case defeated attorney and political newcomer Sergio Alcubilla in the Democratic primary. Conrad Kress, Patrick Largey and Arturo Reyes are competing for the Republican endorsement.
In the US Senate race, US Senator Brian Schatz defeated Democratic challenger Steve Tataii, a conflict resolution consultant. Tataii ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016.
In the Republican primary for the United States Senate, state Rep. Bob McDermott beat five other candidates.