Josh Green wins Hawaii Democratic primary to become governor

HONOLULU (AP) — Lt. Gov. Josh Green won Hawaii’s Democratic primary for governor on Saturday, beating U.S. Representative Kaiali’i Kahele and former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano. Green served as second in command to the Governor of Hawaii.

HONOLULU (AP) — Lt. Gov. Josh Green won Hawaii’s Democratic primary for governor on Saturday, beating U.S. Representative Kaiali’i Kahele and former Hawaii first lady Vicky Cayetano.

Green has been second in command to Hawaii Governor David Ige for the past four years.

Ige has served two four-year terms and is not eligible to run again. The winner of the Democratic primary would be the favorite to win the general election in the liberal state.

Former Lt. Governor James R. “Duke” Aiona won the Republican gubernatorial primary, defeating mixed martial arts championship fighter BJ Penn and Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi.

Aiona served as Lieutenant Governor under the administration of former Governor Linda Lingle from 2002 to 2010.

Green was a senator and state representative before becoming lieutenant governor. He was a doctor in the rural areas of the Big Island before entering politics. He continued to work part-time as a physician while in the state legislature and as a lieutenant governor.

Green developed a sequel during the COVID-19 pandemic for his explanations of infection rates and trends and hospital treatment capacity.

The state’s largest unions have endorsed his candidacy, including the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii State Teachers’ Association.

Green was born in Kingston, New York, and raised in Pittsburgh. He moved to Hawaii with the National Health Service Corps in 2000.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele’s decision to run for governor opened up his seat in Congress representing the Oahu campaign and neighboring islands.

Former State Senator Jill Tokuda defeated State Representative Patrick Pihana Branco for the Democratic nomination for that seat, Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district.

Among Republicans, former US Air Force intelligence analyst and businessman Joe Akana beat company owner Joseph Webster.

Hawaii is a mail-in voting state, so voters have been mailing in their ballots and placing them in drop boxes across the islands since late last month. Election clerks in each county have made available a few voter service centers for people registering to vote at the last minute or voting in person.

Many voters say Hawaii’s high housing costs are a major issue for them. The median price of a single-family home is over $1 million in Honolulu, Maui, and Kauai counties.

Cayetano said it would build rent-to-own housing and work with counties to streamline requirements impeding the construction of affordable housing. Green said he would issue an executive order to eliminate red tape, streamline approvals and enforce existing laws to shut down illegal vacation rentals. Kahele said he would build targeted housing for the workforce and impose a tax on vacant housing.

Aiona said he would eliminate the state Land Use Commission, which he accused of slowing housing development.

Herbert Rowland, a construction worker from Oahu, said he likes Green’s plans to tackle Hawaii’s housing and homelessness problem.

“I come from this island, I have spent my whole life there. I don’t want my kids to leave this island because it’s too expensive and they can’t find a home,” Rowland said, holding up a green campaign sign and waving at passing cars in Honolulu.

Another major problem is the large number of travelers and “overtourism” overwhelming popular sites. Annual visitors to Hawaii hit a record 10 million in 2019. The numbers dipped at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but have since come back strong.

Green proposed charging all travelers over the age of 12 a $50 fee. He said it would raise $350 million to $400 million that the state could use to restore parks, shorelines and build housing. Cayetano endorsed the charges and said eliminating illegal vacation rentals was a good first step.

Kahele said Hawaii needs to reinvent tourism by emphasizing indigenous knowledge, spirit and aloha culture.

Aiona said the fees would be good if used to maintain parks and trails, but he urged caution because the higher costs could deter visitors who fuel Hawaii’s economy.

Kahele and Cayetano questioned the income Green received while he was lieutenant governor of a limited liability company called Green Health International LLC. Green, who continued in his role as an ER doctor while serving as lieutenant governor, said the money was for work he did as a doctor.

Kahele has drawn attention this year for her own side job as a Hawaiian Airlines pilot and her extensive use of proxy voting in Congress. Like everyone else who voted by proxy, he submitted a required letter certifying that he was “physically unable to vote” on Capitol Hill. He cited “the ongoing public health emergency”.

Mona Chang Vierra, teacher, principal and educator, said she loves Cayetano’s business experience and commitment to the community. In 34 years, Cayetano has built the largest laundry service provider in Hawaii, serving hotels and hospitals on three islands. She resigned as president in February.

“She is very successful. She built her business from scratch,” Chang Vierra said.

Cayetano became first lady in 1997 when she married the then governor. Ben Cayetano during his first term.

In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Representative Ed Case defeated lawyer and political newcomer Sergio Alcubilla in the Democratic primary. Conrad Kress, Patrick Largey and Arturo Reyes are vying for the Republican endorsement.

In the U.S. Senate race, Schatz defeated top Democratic challenger Steve Tataii, a dispute resolution consultant. Tataii made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2016.

In the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, state Rep. Bob McDermott defeated five other candidates.

Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press