HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Incumbent David Ige fought off a fierce challenge from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa on Saturday night to win the Democratic primary race for governor in his bid for a second term.
By the end of the night, Ige had secured about 50 percent of the vote, while Hanabusa had 44 percent. [For a full list of results, click here.]
Speaking to supporters after his win, he said he always believed in his campaign's message and his administration.
"I just really want to thank you on behalf of my family for being committed to us. Thank you for not wavering. Thank you for doing the little things that helped us be successful on the campaign trail every single day," he said, to a cheering audience.
"This election has been about the future of Hawaii and about the future that we want to leave for our children and our children's children."
In a concession speech delivered shortly after the results were released, Hanabusa — who gave up her seat in Congress to run for governor — said she was grateful to her supporters and was happy to give voters a different choice.
"The people have spoken. I don't want anyone to feel like you didn't do enough. The one thing I know is that you volunteers did the best job anyone could possible ask for," she said.
"That is the only thing that I want to make sure that not one of you feel that you could've given more. You've given me everything. We ran to give Hawaii a choice, and that's exactly what this election was about."
Both Hanabusa and Ige were present at the Democratic unity event on Sunday to band together and throw their support behind the party.
On the Republican side, state Rep. Andria Tupola won the nod in the governor's race and will face Ige in November in the General Election.
She said she's looking forward to being "the underdog."
"Definitely, we have to keep getting our name out there, but more than that, we have to differentiate ourselves," she said.
At the Republican unity event the day after the primary election, Tupola acknowledged the importance of recognizing all candidates for their hard work.
"It's important for us to show that anyone who sacrificed deserves to have some support. Some congratulations no matter if you won or lost," Tupola said.
Given the dominance of the Democratic Party in Hawaii, many of those races were all but tied up by the time the night was done.
Hanabusa officially announced her run for governor in early January, days before the false missile alert was sent to all Hawaii phones.
The false alarm (and Ige's handling of it) quickly became a boon for Hanabusa's bid for the seat. And before the month of January was over, Hanabusa had gotten a very strong endorsement from her colleague in the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
"What has been abundantly clear, now more than ever, is that Hawaii needs a strong, dynamic leader at the helm of our state," Gabbard said on Jan. 23, standing in front of the state Capitol building shoulder-to-shoulder with Hanabusa.
But in the months that followed, anger about the false missile alert faded and Ige was seen responding to other natural disasters, including historic flooding on Kauai and Kilauea eruptions on the Big Island that destroyed more than 700 homes and displaced thousands.
In asking voters to give him four more years in office, Ige pointed to his handling of those disasters along with his administration's successes on environmental policy, cooling classrooms and helping to relieve the homeless crisis. He also touted the state's work to stand up to the Trump administration, including on travel bans.
And he pledged more work to tackle the dearth of affordable housing and Hawaii's high cost of living.
Hanabusa, meanwhile, sought to undermine Ige's tenure by pointing to his very big failures and suggesting she'd bring competency and experience to executive office.
Perhaps most frequently, she pointed to the 38 minutes it took the state to send out a message letting residents know the missile alert was false.
"What were you doing for 38 minutes," Hanabusa asked Ige, at HNN's Super Debate in July.
Ige's response: "Clearly, we were not prepared. We the made the changes to assure that the event would never happen again."
But Ige's administration has also struggled in other ways — including in the wake of the escape of a confessed killer from Hawaii State Hospital and with how to handle the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope. And it was those missteps that motivated Hanabusa to run.
Facing a tough primary election challenger was a stunning turn of fortunes for Ige, who was in Hanabusa's shoes four years ago in an unlikely run against Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
Ige had served quietly in the state Legislature for nearly three decades when he won a two-to-one primary election victory over Abercrombie — the first governor in the state's history to lose a primary race.