Final Results: Blangiardi Prevails In Honolulu Mayoral Race, Alm Takes Prosecutor's Seat
Updated: 11/4/2020, 8:03 a.m.
Former TV executive Rick Blangiardi won the race for Honolulu mayor over Keith Amemiya, the one-time head of the high school athletics organization, according to final unofficial state Office of Elections results released this morning. While both are political newcomers, they had advanced to the general election from the primary as voters favored outsiders over career politicians.
No surprise to anyone, Hawaii supported Democrat Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris over incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Mike Pence with a margin of 63.2% to 33.9% or 365,802 to 196,602 votes, according to the state's final printout. The results will need to be certified before they are declared official.
Others winning their races included incumbent U.S. Rep. Ed Case who won over Republican Ron Curtis and Democrat Kai Kahele won handily over Republican Joe Akana.
On the Big Island, former prosecutor Mitch Roth outpolled community organizer Ikaika Marzo in one of the friendliest contests in the election.
Last-minute, in-person voting delays results
Long lines of people voting in the final hours delayed the Election Day results, stirring questions about whether the state failed to plan for more voter service centers with given the move to all mail ballots and the closing of neighborhood polling places.
A surge in voters seeking to cast ballots in person took elections officials by surprise; some voters waited hours to get into one of only two voter service centers on Oahu.
At 8:30 p.m. on Election Day, hundreds of people were still in line at the Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale voter service centers. Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi had hoped the lines of voters could be cleared in two hours, allowing the release of the first round of election results, which officials held up while voters remained in lines.
The last of the voters were several hundred waiting at Kapolei Hale. But it wasn't until about 11 p.m. that the first round of results were posted.
The long lines caused safety concerns: six-foot distancing was often not observed, raising fears that the waiting in close quarters could contract and transmit COVID-19.
Hawaii joined much of the nation in casting ballots in record numbers, with the state's first full mail-in ballot election helping to reverse what had been years of slipping turnout numbers. According to final results, 579,165 votes were counted for a turnnout of 69.6% -- 66.1% from mail ballots and 3.5% in person.
The competitive presidential contest drew large numbers of voters to the election as did high-profile local elections, including those for mayors on Oahu and the Big Island.
The pandemic, however, may have been the largest factor in the large turnout. The state's decision to move to mail-in balloting proved prophetic when COVID-19 made social distancing a requirement.
Given the advantages of mail ballots, officials were unprepared when so many opted on the last day to vote in person.
At least one civic government advocate did raise a red flag earlier this year: Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, had recommended officials set up more voter centers.
In an article by The Center for Public Integrity last month published by HPR, voting advocates warned of the downside of moving to all-mail ballots without proper planning.
"Advocates are worried that the paucity of voter service centers could force late-deciding voters to wait in long lines and risk COVID-19 infection on Election Day," it said.
Despite the lines of last-minute voters, mail-in ballots ruled the day with overwhelming numbers of registered voters casting votes using the postal service or ballot deposit boxes scattered around the islands.
Biden's large margin of victory in Hawaii was so assured that one major media outlet declared the outcome before the voter service centers had cleared its lines of voters.
Hawaii's four electoral college votes are not a large number, but with the race between Biden and Trump exceedingly close, one cable network raised the possibility that the state could play a part in a Biden win.
Case, a Democrat representing the urban Congressional District 1, faced a little known challenger in Curtis and breezed to his reelection. He garnered 64.7% with 183,053 votes and Curtis 25.1% with 71,094 votes based on the second printout.
Kahele was the early frontrunner in a crowded field that included Akana and four third-party candidates. As a Big Island legislator, Kahele had name recognition in Congressional District 2 that covers rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands. Kahele won 171,398 votes (57.9%) and Akana 83,928 (28.3%).
Blangiardi and Amemiya ran in a nonpartisan race. Nonetheless, Amemiya made a point of being a Democrat and of Blangiardi's support of Trump in a previous election.
Amemiya conceded after the first round of results showed Blangiardi drawing 224,218 votes to Amemiya's 149,530, or 58.2% to 38.8%.
The race for prosecutor gave voters a clear choice between two different philosophies. Alm championed the idea of "doing justice" rather than just winning cases. Kau embraced a "law and order" label and said the law needs enforcing at all levels.
Alm drew 199,197 to Kau's 159,516 votes, or 51.7% to 41.4% in the final returns.
COUNTY OF HAWAII MAYOR
Roth faced off against Marzo, but the two declared they were friends and scrupulously avoided mud-slinging. Both had outpolled incumbent Mayor Harry Kim in the primary.
Roth ran on the theme of diversifying the economy, one less dependent on tourism. Marzzo who owns a tour company, promoted the idea of reopening safely.
Roth's margin of victory in the final returns was 50,370 to Marzo's 35,887 votes, or 56.9% to 40.5%.
Eight Senate seats were in play, including three that featured state representatives hoping to move into the upper chamber of the Legislature. Republican Sam Slom lost his bid to unseat Stanley Chang in District 9, which includes Hawaii Kai and Kuliouou. Chang had won the seat from Slom in 2016 and Slom had hoped to win it back. Chang drew 19,096 votes for 58.8% of total, while Slom received 11,750 votes for 36.2%
Republican Kurt Fevella held on to his seat in District 19, covering areas that include Ewa Beach and Ocean Pointe, in face of a challenge from state Rep. Rida Cabanilla Arakawa. Fevella received 12,332 votes for 56.4% and Cabanilla Arakawa 8,802 for 40.2%.
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
About 30 House seats were up for election, with several vacancies created by legislators seeking other offices or retiring. Among the races that were closely watched was the contest in District 22, where Adrian Tam won over Nick Ochs, who was affiliated with the alt-right Proud Boys. Tam will serve as the only open LBGTQ elected official in the state Legislature. Tam received 6,071 votes or 63% of the total and Ochs drew 2,864 votes or 29.7%.
OFFICE OF HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS
Three OHA trustee seats were on the line. One of the most closely watched featured Molokai trustee Colette Machado, who lost to challenger Luana Alapa. Alapa received 198,757 votes and Machado 160,067, or 34.3% to 27.6%. Blank votes, a regular occurrence in the OHA races, accounted for 220,181 votes or 38%.
In the at-large race, trustee Keli'i Akina won narrowly over Keoni Souza in the final returns. Akina had 197,618 votes for 34.1% and Souza 195,960 votes or 33.8%. Akina made it a campaign theme to note everyone could vote in the race, but blank votes accounted for 185,409 votes or 32%.