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Image: Kai Kahele.
Kai Kahele.Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Hawaii primaries heat up

Rep. Kai Kahele's late entry into the state's gubernatorial primary has shaken things up.


Voters across Hawaii have likely begun to receive their primary election ballots in the mail and with less than three weeks to go before the state's primary election, two races are heating up.

In the Democratic primary for governor, two candidates — former state First Lady Vicky Cayetano and Lt. Gov. Josh Green — have been neck and neck in ad spending.

Cayetano has so far spent over $1 million on ads, while Green has spent just over $900,000, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm.

Image: Vicky Cayetano and Josh Green.
Vicky Cayetano and Josh Green.Michael Kovac; Marco Garcia / Getty Images; AP

Rep. Kai Kahele, who entered the race in early May, has only spent $16,000 on the airwaves.

Kahele's move left only three months between his announcement and the primary election, giving candidates vying for his now-open seat a short time to mount a campaign.

But, Democratic former state Sen. Jill Tokuda and Democratic state Rep. Patrick Branco jumped in quickly, each spending tens of thousands of dollars on the airwaves.

Branco has spent $44,000 on TV ads so far, while Tokuda has spent over $150,000. The top spender on the airwaves, however, is an outside group — Web3 Forward PAC.

The internet-focused PAC has spent over $230,000 on the airwaves already backing Branco. Web3 Forward has previously run ads backing candidates in Oregon and Texas.

Tokuda is backed by outside groups, too, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC and EMILY's List, though neither group has funded TV ads in her favor.

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz is also up for re-election, though he faces no significant opposition.

Hawaii is an overwhelmingly Democratic state — President Joe Biden won the state by 29 points in 2020. That history gives the candidates that prevail in next month's Democratic primary races have a big leg up for the general election in November.