Voters who support civil unions between people of the same sex scored big victories in Hawaii's primary election, but few expect the controversial topic will be the pivotal issue in November's General Election.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie, a civil union supporter, defeated opponent Mufi Hannemann, who does not support civil unions.
Civil Union proponent Brian Schatz won the democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor.
And state Representative Blake Oshiro, who authored the civil union bill (HB 444) adopted by the legislature but vetoed by Governor Lingle earlier this year, retained his seat by beating Honolulu City Councilman Gary Okino, a staunch same sex opponent.
'It was a great victory for civil rights in Hawaii. All of the incumbent legislators who voted "yes" on HB 444 won their primary," said Alan Spector, co-chair of Equality Hawaii.
"We now have proof that legislators who support equality for same sex couples win their elections. Legislators can no longer say to us, we can't support you because it's not popular with the voters,'" Spector added.
Former state representative Dennis Arakaki, who lobbied against civil unions while he headed of Hawaii Family Forum, does not think Hawaii's religious community did enough at the polls to express opposition to same sex relationships.
"I don't think it is necessarily a pro civil union vote that came out. I think it was a wider appeal other than civil unions that really made a difference," Arakaki said.
People on both sides of the civil union / same sex marriage debate will again align behind candidates for November's General Election. But few seem to think it will be the defining issue in the election.
"There are obviously people who will vote for a candidate on the basis of it and against a candidate on the basis of it. Is it the most important issue of the campaign? No. Economics, and economic development is. Jobs is. Education is," commented Hawaii News Now political analyst Dan Boylan.
Spector and Arakaki agree.
"Polls continue to show that the main thing that voters are interested in is the economy," Spector said.
"It could make a difference in a close race, but I think people are more concerned about other issues, especially the economy and jobs," Arakaki added.