50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 50. Hawai’i

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I have been doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts can be found here

50. Hawai’i

Capital: Honolulu

Nickname: The Aloha State

Motto: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono

(The Life Of The Land Is Perpetuated In Righteousness)

About the State

The islands that make up Hawai’i are the world’s most isolated land mass, located in the Pacific Ocean nearly 2,400 miles from California and more than 3,800 miles from Japan. The first settlers to the archipelago were estimated to have arrived more than 2,000 years ago and are believed to have travelled from the Marquesas Islands – in Southern Polynesia – in double hulled canoes, a journey that would have taken at least four months, without any opportunities for stocking up on food or water. The society on the islands developed mostly secluded from the rest of the world, until Captain James Cook sighted O’ahu in 1778 on his third expedition in search of a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The arrival of the British explorer resulted in the introduction of venereal diseases to the island and, when Cook returned to Hawai’i – which he named the Sandwich Islands, after the 4th Earl of Sandwich – in 1779, he ended up in battle with the natives after taking the King of the Big Island hostage, in an attempt to secure the return of a boat that had been stolen. In the ensuing skirmish, Cook was killed, along with four of his men and 17 Hawaiians.

Up until 1810 the islands had been individually ruled, but were then united by King Kamehameha I, who had been the Chief of the Big Island and undertook a twenty year military and diplomatic campaign to take over the entire chain. After his death in 1819, he was replaced by his son, Liholiho, who became Kamehameha II and abolished the kapu system in Hawai’i, which had such arcane rules as men and women not being allowed to eat together. During the 1830s, foreigners recognised the potential for growing sugar in Hawai’i and the influx of labourers to work in the industry led to the spread of diseases such as smallpox, typhoid and influenza, causing a sharp decline in the native population. When the Civil War broke out in the USA, the northern states could no longer obtain sugar from the south, so turned to Hawai’i for the product instead. Although sales decreased after the conflict ended in 1865, a reciprocity treaty that ended import taxes for the Kingdom of Hawai’i, while giving the US control of Pearl Harbor, resulted in a production boom and by 1883, the island chain’s output of sugar reached 114 million pounds.

In 1887, King Kalakaua was forced by revolutionaries to sign the Bayonet Constitution, stripping him of most of his powers and which also restricted voting to the rich, white, land owners. After Kalakaua had died, his sister, Queen Lili’uokalani began to draft a new constitution that would give the monarchy back its control but, in 1893, she was overthrown by a group known as the Honolulu Rifles, who received backup by sailors from the USS Boston that had been docked in Honolulu. Lili’uoklanai, wanting no bloodshed, stepped down under protest and was replaced by a provisional government – 18 months later, the Republic of Hawai’i was declared.

In July of 1898, President McKinley signed a resolution approving the annexation of Hawai’i to the United States, in part because of the Spanish-American War that had broken out three months earlier and required US troops to cross the Pacific to fight in the Philippines, making the island chain a perfect staging post for the conflict. On December 7th, 1941, forty-one years after Hawai’i had officially become a US Territory, Pearl Harbor and other military installations on O’ahu were attacked by Japanese planes, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 people and pushing the United States into World War II. After several attempts at statehood had failed, on August 21st, 1959, President Eisenhower signed the admission act that made Hawai’i the 50th state of the Union, the last (thus far) to join.

Although there are hundreds in the archipelago, Hawai’i has 8 main islands: Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Maui and Hawai’i – also known as the Big Island. From west to east, the state spans 1,500 miles, while its land area is the 8th smallest in the US and, with more 1.3 million residents, it ranks 40th in population. Hawai’i’s main economic sectors are tourism and agriculture, with its main outputs being pineapples, macadamia nuts, livestock and coffee – the last of which it is the only state in the USA to produce. There are many volcanoes in the state and Kilauea – on the Big Island – is considered one of the world’s largest and most active. One President of the United States was born in Hawai’i – Barack Obama (yes, he was) – who returned to the state, after he had left with his mother at less than a month old, to attend high school in Honolulu. It is one of four states that had been independent prior to becoming part of the United States, along with Vermont, Texas and California.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 4

2008 Result: Obama 71.8% McCain 26.6%

Latest Poll: Obama +27%

Since becoming a state in 1959, Hawai’i has voted for the Republican candidate in Presidential elections twice – Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984, both of which were landslides where the incumbent President carried 49 of the 50 states. In the other 11 contests, the Democratic Party have taken its Electoral College Votes and will again, as Hawai’ian born President Obama has a huge lead in the polls.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate contest in Hawai’i this year, with incumbent Democrat Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) not seeking re-election after serving for 23 years. The race to replace him is between Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) and Republican, Linda Lingle, who served as Governor of the state between 2002 and 2010. Hirono is expected to win the election and keep the seat for the Democratic Party.

Hawai’i has two Representatives in the House, with both of the current delegation being female Democrats. With Hirono contesting the open Senate seat, 31-year-old Tulsi Gabbard is the Democratic Party’s candidate in the 2nd District this November and she is expected to beat the Republican, David Crowley.

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