HONOLULU (AP) _ State Rep. Mark Takai on Saturday emerged from a crowded field of seven candidates to win the Democratic nomination to represent urban Honolulu in the U.S. Congress.
Takai had 43.7 percent of the vote in the second results released after polls closed. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim had the second-most votes with 26.4 percent.
``We're very pleased, excited, exhausted, all of the above,'' Takai said after winning. ``It was a long year, but we put together what we thought was the right campaign strategy and we executed. Tonight showed that the hard work all paid off.
Takai, 47, will face Republican Charles Djou in the general election. Djou held the same seat for seven months from 2010 to 2011 after he won a three-way special election.
``The general election begins right now,'' Djou said. He said the election would be about who can go into the majority caucus in Congress and advocate for Hawaii on day one.
Takai has been a representative in the state House for two decades. He served in the Hawaii National Guard for 14 years and is currently a lieutenant colonel.
Takai's opponents included three Honolulu city councilmen, two state senators and an anti-human trafficking activist.
His leading rival, Kim, became well-known as a tough investigator of state officials. She led the Legislature's probe into how the University of Hawaii athletic department lost $200,000 in a bungled attempt to hire singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder to put on a fundraiser concert.
Marion Barnes, a 66-year-old retiree in Honolulu, said she voted for Takai in part because he supported legislation legalizing same-sex marriage. ``I really like him. I like his campaign,'' Barnes said.
John Lacy, a retired computer executive, said he picked Takai in part because he found things about Kim distasteful, including when she asked then-University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood whether the school received her son's law school application.
``We never really heard an apology for that, and she needed to step up,'' Lacy said.
Takai received endorsements from multiple key groups, including the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the Sierra Club. A political action committee called VoteVetsPAC that aims to elect veterans, particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, to public office supported him.
Equality Hawaii Action Fund threw its support behind Takai for his work on gay marriage.
The race also allowed more minor candidates to shine. Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang, who has been in politics for four years, raised his profile. The 31-year-old came in third after Takai and Kim.
Kim has served in the state Senate since 2000 and previously served in the Honolulu City Council and the state House.
EMILY's List, a political action committee that backs female candidates, endorsed Kim, saying she was a ``pro-choice, pro-education, pro-labor powerhouse legislator.'' She also earned support of key unions, including the United Public Workers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.