Stories about Hawaii

Hawaii sees one open U.S. House seat for the sixth election cycle in a row

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in Hawaii this year was June 7, 2022. Thirteen candidates are running for Hawaii’s two U.S. House districts, including eight Democrats and five Republicans. That’s 6.5 candidates per district, less than the 9.5 candidates per district in 2020 and the same number as in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. Hawaii was apportioned two districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • The 13 candidates running this year are six fewer than the 19 candidates who ran in 2020 and the same number as in 2018. Twelve candidates ran in 2016 and 2014, and 13 ran in 2012.
  • Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele (D) is retiring to run for governor of Hawaii, making the 2nd district an open seat this year. This is the sixth consecutive election cycle where one of Hawaii’s two U.S. House seats is open. 
  • Eight candidates — two Republicans and six Democrats — are running to replace Kahele, the most candidates running for a seat this year.
  • There are four contested primaries this year, the most since 2012. There were three contested primaries in every election cycle between 2014 and 2020. 
  • Democratic and Republican candidates filed to run in both districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 

Hawaii is holding congressional primaries on August 13, 2022, the 41st state to do so. In Hawaii, the winner of a primary election is the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes, even if he or she does not win an outright majority of votes cast.

Additional reading:

Contested state legislative primaries increase in Hawaii this year

There are 51 contested state legislative primaries in Hawaii this year, representing 34% of the total number of possible primaries. This is a 65% increase from 2020.

A primary is contested when more candidates files to run than there are nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Of the 51 contested primaries, 36 are for Democrats and 15 are for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 29 in 2020, a 24% increase. For Republicans, the number increased 650% from two in 2020.

Twenty-five contested primaries feature an incumbent, representing 40% of all incumbents running for re-election. This is a higher rate of incumbents in contested primaries compared to 2020, but lower than rates in the 2018 and 2016 cycles.

All 25 incumbents in contested primaries are Democrats.

Overall, 205 major party candidates—126 Democrats and 79 Republicans—filed to run. All 51 House districts and 25 Senate districts are holding elections.

Hawaii has had a Democratic trifecta since the party won control of the governorship in 2010. Democrats currently hold a 47-4 majority in the House and a 24-1 majority in the Senate.

Hawaii’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 13, the 13th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Hawaii lifts last statewide school mask requirement in the nation

On August 1, 2022, Hawaii lifted its statewide school mask requirement, making it the final state in the nation to do so. The Hawaii Department of Health announced the change on July 12.

Thirty-five states required masks in schools at some point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some requirements specifically covered schools, while others were by-products of a general statewide mask requirement. 

Maryland and Washington were the first states to issue school reopening guidance requiring masks in schools, both on June 10, 2020. Both requirements ended in March 2022.

Hawaii’s school mask requirement was the longest in the nation, lasting from July 15, 2020, to August 1, 2022. North Dakota had the shortest statewide school mask requirement. It lasted from November 14, 2020, to January 18, 2021.

Nine states have banned school mask requirements, five of which had previously required masks in schools. Arkansas’ ban was the first to take effect on April 28, 2021. The ban was later suspended by court action on Sept. 30, 2021. 

The most recent ban took effect in Iowa on May 16, 2022. The state had initially instituted the policy on May 20, 2021, but parts of the ban were temporarily suspended by court action after its passage.

Additional reading:

School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

State-level mask requirements in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020-2022

Seven candidates running in Democratic primary for governor of Hawaii

Seven candidates are running in the Democratic primary for governor of Hawaii on Aug. 13. Incumbent David Ige (D) is term-limited.

Vicky Cayetano, Joshua Green, and Kaiali’i Kahele lead in polling and media attention.

Cayetano co-founded Hawaii’s largest laundry company and served as president and CEO for 34 years. Cayetano said, “My record of building a business of a thousand employees and supporting our community is one of action and results.” She said, “I have a vision, I make payroll, know how to be a CEO. Government should be run like business. We keep talking about the same issues, and we need a new perspective. It’s time for a new perspective to solve the problems.” In 1997, Cayetano married Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano (D), who served as governor until 2002.

Green is Hawaii’s current lieutenant governor and an emergency room physician. He said, “I’m running for Governor because Hawaii needs elected leaders we can trust — to tell us the truth, keep us safe and informed, to care about working families, and to be transparent and accountable to the people.” Green highlighted his role serving as COVID liaison while lieutenant governor. A campaign ad said, “Hawaii got through COVID with the lowest infection rate in the nation.”

Kahele, a veteran and lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard, was elected to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020. Kahele said, “Congress established our great state in 1959 on the condition that the State of Hawaiʻi would establish and manage the ceded Public Land Trust for the benefit of Native Hawaiians and the general public. Ensuring that the state restores its kuleana to manage this public trust is a foundation of my platform for governor.” Kahele says he is “running for governor on a grassroots, publicly funded campaign[.]” He said, “While other candidates are taking corporate money and checks of up to $6,000, I will not accept donations from any individual of more than a hundred bucks.”

Affordable housing has been a central theme in the race. Cayetano’s campaign website said, “[I]n addition to accelerating housing projects that are specific to Native Hawaiians and are taking place within the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL), I would make the availability of affordable rental housing my highest priority. I propose a massive five year recurring statewide affordable rental housing plan to significantly increase the number of affordable rental housing units for Hawaii’s families.” 

As part of Green’s 10-point housing plan, he said that he would “[i]mmediately issue an executive order to all state and county housing agencies to speed up construction of affordable housing by eliminating red tape, streamlining processes and approvals, and coordinating efforts to address the crisis.” 

Kahele said he would “[build] targeted workforce housing; [develop] fee mechanisms through tax-exempt bonds and bond activity caps; and [build] out housing plans specific to urban Honolulu and the rest of the state.”

Cayetano, Green, and Kahele disagree on the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope project, a plan to construct a $2.65 billion telescope on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano. Cayetano supports the project, Kahele opposes the plans as they stand, and Green expressed disappointment in the handling of the project, saying he supported large projects like the telescope if they were done with respect between cultures.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s Dan Nakaso, the candidates also disagree on the legalization of recreational marijuana. Nakaso wrote, “Kahele and Green support legalizing recreational marijuana, with caveats, while Cayetano is opposed.”

Major independent observers rate the general election as solid Democratic or safe Democratic. Ige was first elected in 2014 and won re-election in 2018 by a margin of 29 percentage points. Democrats have had trifecta control of Hawaii state government since 2011.

Also running in the primary are David “Duke” Bourgoin, Richard Kim, Clyde Lewman, and Van Tanabe.

Hawaii reports increased number of unemployment insurance phishing scams

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) announced April 7 an increased number of reports of phishing scams tied to unemployment insurance claims. The schemes involve scammers who impersonate the DLIR in text messages, emails, and social media posts that ask for personal information that is supposed to relate to unemployment insurance claims.

The department did not give specific data on the reports but reminded residents that the state does not ask for personal information via text. DLIR also said the official website for Hawaii unemployment insurance benefits is https://huiclaims.hawaii.gov/#/.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

For more information on Kansas’ unemployment insurance program, click here. For information about unemployment insurance programs across the country, click here.

Additional reading:

Final statewide mask requirement ended in Hawaii March 26

The last remaining statewide mask requirement in the country ended in Hawaii on March 26. Governor David Ige (D) announced the end of the requirement on March 8, bookending a series of 10 other states ending their mask requirements throughout February and March. 

Since New Jersey enacted the first statewide mask requirement in response to the coronavirus pandemic on April 10, 2020, Ballotpedia has tracked such requirements across the 50 states. 

Thirty-nine states implemented statewide mask requirements over the course of the pandemic, 17 of which currently have Republican governors, and 22 have Democratic governors. Five states with Democratic governors that allowed a statewide order to fully expire later reinstated a mask order. One state (New York) had its mask requirement overturned by a court then reinstated by higher court action the same day. Thirty-six states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through a court order.

The chart below shows the total number of days each state had a mask requirement in place since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.


  • New Jersey issued the first statewide mask requirement on April 10, 2020.
  • Mississippi had the shortest mask requirement, lasting 56 days. 
  • The shortest statewide mask requirement in a state with a Democratic governor was in Wisconsin, which lasted 242 days.
  • The longest statewide mask requirement was in Hawaii, which lasted 704 days.
  • The longest statewide mask requirement in a state with a Republican governor was in Maryland, which lasted 393 days.

Hawaii enacts new state legislative districts

Hawaii enacted new legislative districts on Jan. 28, 2022, when the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted 8-1 to approve a legislative map proposal. The maps will take effect for Hawaii’s 2022 state legislative elections.

The commission’s Technical Committee Permitted Interaction Group initially presented the state legislative map plans to the commission for consideration on Oct. 14, 2021. The map plans were approved for public comment on Oct. 28. The commission approved a motion on Jan. 6 to modify the legislative map plans after learning the initial plans had not properly accounted for the number of nonpermanent resident personnel on military installations in the state, who are not included in legislative redistricting. Under the modified proposal, one legislative district moved from Oahu to Hawaii.

Commission Chairman Mark Mugiishi said the maps were drawn fairly. “I do believe the principle of the democratic process is a fair and well-run election,” Mugiishi said. Commissioner Cal Chipchase said, “They follow a long iteration of taking into account the best available data that we have received, and have been responsive to community concerns and questions where practicable.” Commissioner Robin Kennedy, who cast the only vote against the new maps, said, “I feel the community still doesn’t have the answers it needs.” Sandy Ma of Common Cause Hawaii said, “The proposed final maps do not take community concerns or testimonies into account and it still splits communities of interest.”

Thirty-one states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers, and one state has adopted maps that have not yet gone into effect as of Feb. 4. The state supreme court in one state has overturned previously enacted maps, and 17 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,305 of 1,972 state Senate seats (66.2%) and 2,976 of 5,411 state House seats (55.0%).

Additional reading:

Hawaii enacts new congressional district maps

Hawaii enacted new congressional districts on Jan. 28, 2022, when the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted 8-1 to approve a congressional map proposal. Hawaii was apportioned two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census. This map will take effect for Hawaii’s 2022 congressional elections.

Two congressional district maps were presented to the commission at their meeting on Sept. 9, 2021. One map kept the congressional lines as they were drawn following the 2010 census. An alternate map slightly adjusted the lines along the western coast of Oahu. The commission voted to adopt the alternate proposal on Oct. 14. After hearing public testimony, the commission drafted a final proposal on Jan. 26.

Commissioner Cal Chipchase said the proposals were responsive to public input and followed state statutes. “I am satisfied that the technical committee and that this commission has considered all of the constitutional criteria, as practicable, rather than favoring any one or ignoring any condition,” Chipchase said. Bill Hicks, a Hawaii citizen who submitted proposals to the commission, criticized the commission’s approach to the new maps. “It is best to construct compliant House districts first and use them as building blocks for not only Senate districts, but also for Congressional districts. Construct the Congressional districts last and not first,” Hicks said.

Twenty-eight states have adopted congressional district maps, and one state has approved congressional district boundaries that have not yet taken effect as of Feb. 4. Federal or state courts have blocked previously adopted maps in two states, and 13 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting is required.

Congressional redistricting has been completed for 299 of the 435 seats (68.7%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Additional reading:

Keith Hayashi assumes office as interim superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education

Keith Hayashi assumed office as interim superintendent of Hawaii’s state department of education on Aug. 1. The Hawaii State Board of Education in June appointed Hayashi to serve as the interim superintendent, after outgoing superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced she would not seek a contract renewal. Hayashi will serve in the role until the Board selects a permanent replacement.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected to lead our public school system during this transition,” Hayashi said in a statement released by the Department of Education. “This is such a critical time for the Department and I am committed to connecting with our schools, complex areas and state office leaders to ensure that we are well prepared for the upcoming school year.”

At the time he was appointed, Hayashi was the principal of Waipahu High School, a position he had held since 2009. This is Hayashi’s second time serving as interim state superintendent; he previously held the interim role in July 2017, before the Board appointed Christina Kishimoto to the position. Hayashi also served as interim deputy state superintendent from March to June 2017.

Additional reading:

Christina Kishimoto

Hawaii Superintendent of Education

Superintendent of Schools (State Executive Office)

Hawaii governor appoints Linda Ann Ha‘i Clark to state House of Representatives

Hawaii Governor David Ige (D) appointed Linda Ann Ha‘i Clark (D) to the District 13 seat of the Hawaii state House on July 23. The seat became vacant in June when Ige appointed former state Rep. Lynn DeCoite (D) to the Senate to succeed Jamie Kalani English (D). Clark will serve the remainder of DeCoite’s term, which was set to expire in November 2022.

“I am extremely grateful for the appointment. I’d like to thank Gov. Ige for entrusting me. I’d also like to thank Sen. Lynn DeCoite and outgoing Sen. Kalani English for their years of service. I look forward to meeting my constituents as soon as possible,” Clark said in a statement released by Gov. Ige’s office.

At the time she was appointed, Clark worked as an independent process server for the State of Hawaii’s Child Support Enforcement Agency. 

Hawaii is one of ten states that fill state legislative vacancies through gubernatorial appointment.

Additional reading:

Lynn DeCoite

State legislative vacancies, 2021