By Edwin Quinabo
There was no blue or red wave in the 2020 general election. Instead, there were two tidal waves that swept through the country.
Two sides of America almost equally passionate and determined went to the polls or voted by mail in numbers that shattered voter-turnout in all previous elections.
Following four days of vote-counting, Joseph Biden Jr. reached the 270 electoral votes marker and will be the 46th president of the United States.
President Trump has not conceded and vows to fight the election results. Legal challenges have been launched and the nation could experience a post-election battle like never seen before.
The next few days, weeks will speed up in a fury if Trump doesn’t have a change of heart. Legal suits, possible recounts, investigations into vote counting centers’ transparency and procedures, and looking into possible mail-in voting irregularities – all of them must be completed before each state’s certification (the process by which the results of an election are made official) deadline. For most states that date falls in the last week of November.
Experts find Trump’s challenge a longshot to reversing anything considering how far behind he is. It’s not the same as contesting one state to reverse an outcome as Al Gore tried with Florida. Trump would need a combination of three or four states to turn the election in his favor.
The institution of the nation’s elections process will be tested. For millions of Americans the hope is that political and legal maneuvering will not forever taint this most sacred feature in American democracy. Only time will tell.
Biden on transition
Biden is already poised to move quickly on transition and is said to be working behind-the-scenes to push supporters, allies in the Senate, and Republicans to validate the sanctity of the election and bring them aboard to make a smooth exchange of power.
He also made clear that a Trump’s concession is not necessary to move forward. Biden’s campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said, “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Biden’s campaign said he does not plan to wait for any of Trump’s legal challenges and intends to immediately shift into mode of President-elect.
Biden encouraged Americans to stay calm. “Each ballot must be counted, and that’s how it should be. Democracy is sometimes messy, it sometimes requires a little patience as well,” he said.
Trump alleges cheating, files lawsuits
On the night of the General Election Trump prematurely claimed victory even as millions of Americans votes — mostly mail-in votes that election experts say were primarily Democrat votes — had yet to be counted.
Two days later, in a press conference he repeated that he won the election and accused Democrats of cheating and trying to steal the election. But he offered no evidence to support his claims.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” said Trump.
Major news organizations ABC, CBS, NBC and MSNBC all stopped airing his speech because network heads believed it was filled with lies about the election and vote-counting process.
In his drive to contest the election results, Trump has mounted a legal blitz, filing lawsuits in several battleground states.
Trump said, “We think there’s going to be a lot of litigation, because we have so much evidence, so much proof. And it’s going to end up perhaps at the highest court in the land. We’ll see. But we think there will be a lot of litigation, because we can’t have an election stolen like this.”
Trump campaign legal adviser Harmeet Dhillion said the campaign hopes new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barret will help Trump win the presidency if a case makes it to the Supreme Court.
“We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court, which — of which the president has nominated three justices, to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.”
A superior court judge in Georgia already dismissed one of Trump’s lawsuits. Superior Court Judge James F. Bass, Jr. wrote that “there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7 p.m. on Election Day, thereby making those ballots invalid. Additionally, there is no evidence that the Chatham County Board of Elections or the Chatham County Board of Registrars has failed to comply with the law.”
Critics say Trump’s complaints are inconsistent. On the night of the general, he has called for vote counting to stop. Then when he found himself behind the next day, he has called for every vote to be counted.
Elections experts say the President has no legal right to stop vote counting. Responsibility for vote counting lies exclusively with the states.
They also say in order for the Supreme Court to determine the presidential race, a case would have to come to the court from a state in which the outcome would determine the election’s winner.
On alleged fraud
Most of Trump’s complaints have centered around alleged mail-in fraud, deadlines or a lack of transparency at counting centers. Independent observers say postal ballot fraud is extremely rare and in those few cases discovered no case would have changed an election outcome.
The US has been allowing voting by mail since the 19th century.
On two of the transparency suits filed in Michigan and Pennsylvania, election officials said independent checkers and party representatives on both sides were allowed to watch over the ballot counting, contrary to what Trump alleges.
Republicans have also been cautious over Trump’s voting fraud allegations.
Former Republican US Sen. Rick Santorum said, “Counting mail-in and absentee ballots is not fraud. No Republican leaders should support the lies about ‘voter fraud’ that Donald Trump is spewing right now.”
On Trump’s premature victory claim, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell disagreed. “It’s not unusual for people to claim they’ve won the election. I can think of that happening on numerous occasions. But claiming you win the election is different from finishing the counting.”
Hawaii votes and Filipinos on Presidential race
Hawaii continues its tradition of voting Democrat in the presidential race. The Office of Elections had the Biden-Harris tandem ahead of Trump-Pence 365,802 (63.2 percent) to 196,602 (33.9%). Support for Trump rose slightly from his last election when he received 128,847 votes. Hawaii had a record-breaking 579,000 voter turnout or 66.1 percent of registered voters.
Marilyn Corpuz, Pearl City, a retired government clerk, said she voted for Biden because she is afraid that a second Trump term would be a disaster. “Trump has done damage in our country. The division we have now is nothing like I’ve seen in my lifetime. He’s also constantly lying and exaggerating. He lied at the debates. He lied about that tax return we never got to see. Now he’s lying about mail-voter fraud. He says he’s been cheated of winning the election without offering any evidence. But he will probably lie about that too and make up stuff.”
Corpuz said she likes Biden as a person. “He’s a likeable, honest man, the opposite of Trump. I think he is the right person to have challenged Trump. I’m not too sure someone could have beat Trump. Biden appeals to many people from different backgrounds. I think he got some of Trump’s working class white male base to cross over this election. The race was so close and this probably helped him win.”
Cesar Fronda of Waipahu said he voted for Biden because he is pro-worker. “Biden supports unions and benefits for members. He supports Social Security and Medicare.”
Fronda, who claims to be a political independent, said he also likes Biden because he is a uniter and will be a president for both Republicans and Democrats.
Nicole Kawahara, Honolulu, a client services specialist, voted for Biden. The issue she’s been tracking lately is police brutality and believes Biden will be better at fixing the problems on this issue. Kawahara says she leans toward the Democratic Party, but adds it’s not always just about a political party for her.
Eva Garcia, who grew up in Moanalua but now lives in Laguna Hills, California, said Biden was her choice because Trump is dangerous and an autocrat. Normally Garcia votes Republican but said she couldn’t risk the country in the hands of Trump.
“Typical as the autocrat he is, he’s trying to contest the election like all dictators do. He’s been caught with lie after lie. Why should people believe his election fraud allegations. It’s already proven that mail-in voting is secure. There is no historical evidence for his claims.
“I’m scared that he will make something up and one of his legal challenges will reach the Supreme Court where he might get a favorable ruling. In the end though, the people will not allow this election to be stolen. Just look at how many people came out to vote and under circumstances where they could be infected by the coronavirus,” said Garcia.
Republicans are poised to keep their majority in the Senate. But the majority will come down to two races for US Senate in the state of Georgia that will take place in January. Democrats flipped a seat in red Arizona; but lost one in red Alabama. Democrats failed in two high stakes races to defeat Sen. McConnell in Kentucky and Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, thought to be the most vulnerable among Republican incumbent senators, managed to pull out a victory.
If both Democrats win in Georgia’s special elections, the Senate would be 50-50, and Kamala Harris would break any tie.
Hawaii’s Congressman Ed Case won reelection and will be joined by newcomer fellow Democrat Kaiali’I Kahele who replaces Tulsi Gabbard.
Democrats will retain majority control of the House and is likely to add to their current majority of 232-197- 1. But Republicans flipped a few key seats including two in Florida held by Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala.
Blangiardi wins Honolulu Mayoral Race
First-time political candidate Rick Blangiardi beat out another newbie to politics Keith Amemiya 58.2 to 38.8 percent in what was one of the most slanted races for Honolulu mayor. Blangiardi won in almost each island’s precincts and appealed to Hawaii’s broad demographics.
Blangiardi is the son of immigrants and grew up in a working-class community in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He moved to Hawaii in the 1960s and played football for the University of Hawaii. He retired in January 2020 from a long and illustrious career in television on the mainland and in Hawaii. He was former general manager of Hawaii News Now.
He’s had extensive executive experience leading huge companies which was attractive to Hawaii voters who see his background and leadership well suited to steer Honolulu toward economic recovery deflated by the pandemic.
To back up his stellar resume, Blangiardi exudes confidence and charisma. Some have said he reminds them of Honolulu’s legendary Mayor Frank Fasi who served 22 years in office.
“I voted for Blangiardi because I feel I can trust him during this critical time. He’s very calm and communicates well. He has this quality about his personality that makes you feel he really cares. His life is a classic American success story, immigrant son to working class parents makes it big time,” said Corpuz.
She said she likes Amemiya also. “But when you compare both candidates’ selling points, as businessmen and candidates for change, Blangiardi comes out on top. We’re actually fortunate to have someone with a business background as Blangiardi run to serve in public office. People that age and having achieved that much success usually retire.
“On change, even though Amemiya is a first-time political candidate, his connections to who’s who in government runs deep. That said, it’s hard to step on toes when you’re in the same social circles. Amemiya had so many union endorsements I feel making change for him would be harder,” said Corpuz.
Where Corpuz gave Amemiya top credit is his plans for the city. She said it was very specific with concrete examples.
Blangiardi has led in local polls prior to the General.
This 2020 mayor-elect must hit the ground running. Ahead of him are problems beyond normal typical city management issues that other incoming mayors have had to face. The pandemic crisis adds safety concerns and a budgetary shortfall.
The pandemic could also exacerbate Honolulu’s already urgent homelessness crisis. The rail needs a successful, on-budget completion.
Fil-Am General Eelection Winners in the State Senate and Honolulu City Council
Fil-Am candidates lived up to expectations by winning in a landslide in several races from State Senate to House seats.
Sen. Donavan Dela Cruz trounced his opponent John Miller 70.29 to 29.70 percent in Senatorial District 22. Dela Cruz, who last session led the most powerful committee in the Senate, the Ways and Means (WAM), is likely to repeat that leadership role. Prior to becoming a senator Dela Cruz served in the Honolulu City Council for eight years and was the youngest chair of the Council at 30. Already having top leadership roles in arguably the two most influential government bodies at Hawaii’s state and county level, he joins a select few among Fil-Am politicians primed to advance to higher office. Only a few FilAm veteran politicians have had similar career success to Dela Cruz. Most notable among them Donna Mercado Kim and Ron Menor, both of whom already sought higher offices. Dela Cruz continues to build on his resume of public service and has youth on his side to make a future run at Congress.
Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran (64.31 percent) of Maui also handily defeated his opponents Christy Kajiwara-Gusman (30.93 percent) and Rynette Keen (4.76 percent). Before serving in the state House and Senate, he’s held an impressive streak of top administrative roles including as Director of Public Works and Environmental Management. Keith-Agaran is an attorney, received his J.D from UC-Berkeley and B.A. from Yale College.
The State Senate will have two freshman Fil-Ams in 2021 — Joy San Buenaventura, Senate Dist. 2 (Big Island, Puna, Kaʻū) and Bennette Misalucha, Senate Dist. 16 (Pearl Harbor, Pearl City and Aiea).
Buenaventura begins her first year in the Senate but has been at the Legislature for six years in the House where she’s held leadership roles. Last session she served as chair of the HHS/Homelessness committee, vice chair of the Judiciary committee, and House majority whip. She had a strong campaign in her first run in a larger district, garnering 75.19 percent of votes compared to her opponent Aloha Aina Party’s Ron Kaipo (24.81 percent).
Misalucha is technically an incumbent but is still green to the Senate having been appointed by Gov. David Ige to fill the seat of the late Sen. Breene Harimoto this year in July. Because she took over Sen. Harimoto’s seat, her win in this general is for two years. The term for Hawaii state senators lasts for four years. Misalucha is a wellknown community leader. Her professional background includes executive positions in banking, marketing, public policy, and community outreach. Since 2008, she ran her own business strategy and communications company. Her race was relatively close against opponent Kelly Kitashima, 52.69 percent to 47.31 percent.
Honolulu City Council will also have two additional Fil-Ams: Augusto Tulba (Augie T) who pulled off a surprise victory over former state Sen. Will Espero (52.90 to 47.10 percent); and Radiant Cordero who had 48.6 percent of the vote against challenger Jacob Aki.
Tulba, a legendary Hawaii entertainer, will occupy the seat of term-limited FilAm Ron Menor in the district representing Waikele, Mililani, Royal Kunia and portions of Ewa Beach. Cordero will hold the seat of the term-limited Fil-Am Joey Manahan, her former boss. Cordero was Manahan’s chief of staff.
Tulba and Cordero will join sitting city council members that include Fil-Am Brandon Elefante. The Filipino community for generations has been well-represented at the Honolulu City Council regularly with at least two and up to four Fil-Am members (of the total nine that comprise the Council) each year. Many of them led the Council as chair during their tenure (to name a few: Ron Menor, Ernest “Ernie” Martin, Nestor Garcia, Donovan Dela Cruz, Rudy Pacarro).
What the 2020 Presidential Election was about
To Biden supporters, his victory signals a dramatic shift, an end to close to four years of intense suffering unjustly and inhumanly just for being an immigrant or person of color. After close to a year of chaos, confusion, economic down-spiraling and literally death over the coronavirus pandemic – Biden’s win is a symbolic signpost pointing to the road that should have initially been taken to beat COVID-19.
For the other half of a divided nation who supported Trump in the general, their leader will not get a second-term – a political oddity that hasn’t happened since President George Bush, Sr.
While 45 will not remain in the White House, Trumpism is a political force to stay, political analysts suspect. The strong showing in the general suggests that. Unless president-elect Biden can make good on his message of uniting the nation and find a way for the diverse coalition who supported him to co-exist with Trumpers under the same tent.
The 2020 election shows that honesty still matters. While “character” normally takes a backseat to the economy and hot issues in choosing a candidate, this election was different. Character matters. Being a decent person matters.
Political analysts counted Biden out initially in the Primary that had one of the strongest field of Democratic contenders ever. But Biden is likely the only candidate who could have defeated Trump, as Trump’s complete polar opposite. Republicans couldn’t attach labels to Biden that perhaps could have stuck onto other Democrats. Independents, who really are shifting moderates in time, felt comfortable voting for Biden whose politics is really 1980s Republicanism.
Take away the hate and xenophobia, Trumpism at its root is really a rejection to a world moving too fast. Biden’s middle-of-the-road politics might just be the antidote Trumpers were looking for, not the “wolf populist” in sheep’s clothing who misguided them.
For millions of Americans, at least the end to one of the country’s worst years in history, closed with a promising upside.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For other Fil-Ams who won in the General Election, see HFC Editorial Assistant Jim Bea Sampaga’s article in this issue.