Tsutsui Ige’s running mate

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui easily won the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor Saturday night, outdistancing Oahu Sen. Clayton Hee and setting him up as the running mate for Democratic gubernatorial nominee state Sen. David Ige.

Hee conceded the race Saturday night. He did not return a Maui News call seeking comment.

“I’m excited,” Tsutsui said shortly after stepping off a flight from Honolulu to Kahului on Saturday night.

With all 245 precincts reporting as of 10:52 p.m., Tsutsui had taken 111,262 votes, or 51.1 percent, in his first statewide election. Hee finished second with 74,233 votes, or 34.1 percent; former TV reporter Mary Zanakis received 16,412 ballots, or 7.5 percent; Kaneohe resident Miles Shiratori claimed 2,314 votes, or 1.1 percent; and Ewa Beach resident Sam Puletasi had 1,913 ballots, or 0.9 percent.

Tsutsui said he had a brief phone conversation with Ige just before boarding the flight to Maui. They congratulated each other, he said, and Tsutsui told Ige he looked forward to working with him on the campaign to win the Nov. 4 general election.

Tsutsui, the former state Senate president, said he worked well with Ige while they served together in the Legislature.

“We’re very familiar with each other,” he said. “David and I work really well together.”

Together, they will come up with a plan to communicate a “message for the future” to the electorate, he said.

Tsutsui said he has a “great relationship” with Ige, and he didn’t think there’d be friction, even though Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Tsutsui to the lieutenant governor’s office and actively campaigned for him.

The governor publicly endorsed Tsutsui, saying at a June appearance on Maui that “of course, we are a team.”

Tsutsui said he spoke with Abercrombie, who told him his job is now to “unify the party” to “bring us back together and have a successful November.”

Abercrombie appointed Tsutsui, the former Central Maui senator and Senate president, to the lieutenant governor’s office as one of the dominoes to be rearranged in the wake of the December 2012 death of longtime U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

The Ige-Tsutsui Democratic ticket will face Republicans Duke Aiona (governor) and Elwin Ahu (lieutenant governor); Independents Mufi Hannemann (governor) and Les Chang (lieutenant governor); and Libertarians Jeff Davis (governor) and Cynthia Marlin (lieutenant governor).

Tsutsui said the Democratic ticket has opponents with “tremendous experience” in running campaigns.

“They’re very formidable opponents,” he said.

Tsutsui said he hasn’t given much, if any, thought to making history as, possibly, Maui’s first elected lieutenant governor.

But he said that “any time you can change the status quo you provide opportunities.”

“The message I want the next generation of leaders to know is that they can come from a Neighbor Island,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you live. There should be an equal opportunity to serve.”

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.