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 current lieutenant governor of the state, 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 House of Representatives.
Green, with yellow and purple flowers and green leaves piled high up to his neck, alternated between throwing his fists in the air and jokingly waving to a rowdy crowd of supporters at his victory party.
“By November, we will win the governorship and move Hawaii forward,” he told the cheering crowd.
He will face former two-term Republican Gov. Duke Aiona in the general election, who defeated mixed martial arts champion BJ Penn in his party’s primary.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now, Aiona said his supporters “trusted in my ability to lead the state and I’m really, really thankful and grateful for that.”
Green has served as 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 Hawaii’s high housing costs were a top issue for them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the median single-family home price reached $1 million in Honolulu, Maui and Kauai counties.
To address the housing shortage, Green said he will issue an executive order to eliminate 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 on Oahu, said he likes Green’s plans for dealing with 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 leave this island because it’s too expensive and they can’t find a home,” Rowland said recently while holding a Green campaign sign and waving to passing cars in Honolulu.
Aiona’s supporter, Viola Alipio, said she believes he will tackle rising crime in the state. Earlier in his career, Aiona served as a Family Court judge and a District Court judge. He ran the Hawaii Drug Court program, which provides rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders as an alternative to prison.
“I know him very well. I know his values – they all match my values. Family, honesty, transparency,” she said at a recent Aiona sign-waving event in Kailua.
Green was a state senator and representative before serving as lieutenant governor. He was a rural doctor on the Big Island before entering politics. He 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 erupted when Kahele and Cayetano questioned the income Green received as lieutenant governor from a limited liability company called Green Health International LLC. Green, who has continued to work as an emergency room doctor while lieutenant governor, said the money was for the work he did as a doctor.
Kahele drew attention this year for his side job as a Hawaiian Airlines pilot and his heavy use of proxy voting in Congress. Like all those who have voted by proxy, he submitted a required letter certifying that he was unable to physically vote at the Capitol. He cited the “ongoing public health emergency.”
Green was born in Kingston, New York and raised in Pittsburgh. He was transferred 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 defeated Rep.
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 ballot boxes across the islands late last month. Election officials in each county set up several voter service centers for people registering to vote at the last minute or voting in person.
In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Ed Case defeated attorney and political newcomer Sergio Alcubilla in the Democratic primary. Conrad Kress, Patrick Largey and Arturo Reyes are vying for the Republican endorsement.
In the US Senate race, US Senator Brian Schatz defeated Democratic primary challenger Steve Tataii, a conflict resolution consultant. Tataii made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2016.
In the Republican primary for the US Senate, state Rep. Bob McDermott defeated five other candidates.