HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann has a big lead in the race for Hawaii's 2nd Congressional seat, representing rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.
A Hawaii News Now and Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll finds a significant portion of voters statewide have never heard of Hannemann's opponent, councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard.
Hannemann, who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor in 2010, enjoys a strong lead in the race for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Mazie Hirono, who is running for the U.S. Senate.
The poll of people expected to vote in the Democratic primary finds 65 percent of those questioned would vote for Hannemann if the election was today. Just 20 percent back Gabbard, who's serving her first term on the Honolulu City Council.
"I really believe it's a reflection of the message that we've been putting out of someone with proven experience and a track record that's going to focus on the economy and Hawaii's role in the pacific, education and the challenges that working men and women face," Hannemann, who heads the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association.
Gabbard put the best face on the situation, saying she's hearing encouragement from voters around the state.
"They're also excited about the fact that they actually have a choice in this election and they're excited for choosing fresh leadership, versus the same old, tired, failed leadership of my opponent," said Gabbard, who also served in the State House.
The poll also measured favorability ratings of the two leading Democrats in the U.S. House race. It found 59 percent of those polled gave Hannemann a favorable rating, while 18 percent had a favorable opinion of Gabbard.
But 40 percent of those questioned said they've "never heard" of Gabbard, meaning she has a lot of work to do to get her name out to potential voters.
"I'm quite confident, actually, that once people get to know me, they get to know my positions on different issues, that they will make that choice for fresh leadership in Congress. Someone who's going to go there and get the job done," Gabbard said.
Hannemann, a former city council chairman and one time head of the state business department, said, "I'm not going to take this (his lead in the polls) for granted. There are four other people who are running, that want the job as much as we do. So all this does, I believe, is let us know that we're in a good place at this point in time.
The statewide poll was conducted in late January and early February by Ward research in Honolulu.
About 66 percent of those surveyed were reached on a landline phone, while 34 percent of the poll respondents were reached via a mobile telephone.
The primary election is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 11.