HONOLULU — State Sen. Kai Kahele is favored to win the Democratic Party’s nomination to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in Saturday’s primary election.
The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who decided not to run for reelection so she could focus on her presidential campaign, which was ultimately unsuccessful.
Kahele faces three opponents, none with prior elected experience. He has served in the state Senate since 2016, starting from when he was appointed to fill the remainder of his father’s term after he died. He was elected for the first time later that year.
The 46-year-old is a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and flies C-17 jets as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard. He’s married to a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant and has three daughters.
If elected, Kahele would be the second Native Hawaiian in Congress since statehood. The first was the late Sen. Daniel Akaka, who left office in 2013.
He’s an advocate of “Medicare for All” and supports the idea of a “Green New Deal” to address climate change and help Hawaii meet its clean energy goals.
Nine people are vying for the Republican nomination for the seat, which covers suburban Honolulu and Hawaii’s more rural islands.
With Saturday’s election, Hawaii becomes the fifth state to conduct an election entirely by mail after the state enacted a vote-by-mail law last year. Hawaii joins Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Utah in holding all-mail elections. In Hawaii, voters have also had the option to cast ballots in-person at a handful voter service centers over the past two weeks but the overwhelming majority have used mail.
Elections officials mailed ballots to voters in mid-July. They must receive filled-in ballots by 7 p.m. on Saturday to count them.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ed Case is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District seat. Case was first elected to this seat in 2018. He represented the 2nd Congressional District from 2002 to 2007 and served in the state House from 1994 to 2002.
The Republican primary for the seat, which represents urban Honolulu, has five candidates.