HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A day after his landslide re-election, Gov. David Ige said he’ll take what he’s learned in his first term and use that to continue tackling his second term.
“I think the focus really is about recognizing that when we work together we can do great things,” he told Hawaii News Now on Wednesday, pointing to the April flood disaster on Kauai and how employees from different agencies came together to help with recovery efforts.
“I’m really proud to be governor of the state of Hawaii because there is a much broader sense of community.”
His comments came the morning after he won his bid for re-election, fighting off a general election challenge from Republican state Rep. Andria Tupola.
In a fiery concession speech to supporters at Blaisdell Center, Tupola said her campaign had started a movement — and that she wasn’t done yet.
“If you feel committed to this cause, you can trust in the fact that I’m going to continue waging it," she said. “I want you to tell me right now, we will never give up. We will never give up because there is still a cause to be waged. Change to be had. A movement to be had. Still people waiting to do this and what you did will not be forgotten."
Minutes later, Ige took the stage at the Pomaikai Ballrooms, holding back tears as he talked about his hard-fought re-election victory.
“We spoke that this campaign is about the future of Hawaii and I want to thank every one of you for helping to tell our story,” he said. “It’s proof that when we work together we can do great things.”
He later said he was very emotional because “it was the end of a very long campaign season. It is exhausting. Governing and campaigning at the same time only means very, very long hours, and I think it was just the combination of everything.”
Earlier in the day, both candidates were optimistic.
Tupola had pledged a tough fight, and the Republican Party said it was working overtime to bolster support for a candidate who has gained popularity among some groups of voters.
HNN political analyst Colin Moore said Tupola has shown herself to be a strong candidate.
But he predicted an easy win for Ige. And that’s exactly what happened.
Ige was able to secure a second term after the earliest results were released about 7:10 p.m.
After the false missile alert in January, an episode that angered Hawaii voters and gave the state a black eye, Ige’s chances for re-election appeared in serious doubt.
But Ige gained praise in the months that followed for his administration’s handling of other disasters, including historic flooding on Kauai that destroyed hundreds of homes, catastrophic eruptions on the Big Island that displaced thousands, and hurricanes that battered parts of the state.
In August, he handily bested his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. And going into the general election, he’s consistently polled well ahead of his Republican opponent.
Over the last year, successes and highlights of the Ige administration were often overshadowed by controversy — the missile alert mistake, the homeless crisis, the escape of a confessed killer from the Hawaii State Hospital, and the battle over the Thirty Meter Telescope.
Tupola has said the governor doesn’t have what it takes to be a good leader.
“What we see right now is a failure to lead," she told Hawaii News Now last month. “There are people in the current administration that are very good followers.”
But she’s also faced her own embarrassing episodes.
Last month, her running mate — Marisa Kerns — accused her intentionally keeping her out of a televised debate and “sabotaging” her campaign.
Earlier, Kerns told Hawaii News Now that Tupola should apologize for her legislative voting record.
And on Tuesday, Tupola found herself defending a video posted on social media that some called “disrespectful” to the governor.
For his part, the governor acknowledges that he has made mistakes, but he says he’s learned from them — and changed the way the state operates based on those lessons.
“It does take a while to make a difference," he said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done."
Facing a tough primary election challenger in Hanabusa was a stunning turn of fortunes for Ige.
Four years ago, he was the Democratic challenger going up against an incumbent governor. But unlike Hanabusa, he won in the primary — keeping Gov. Neil Abercrombie from securing a second term.
Abercrombie was the first governor in the state’s history to lose a primary race.