HILO — One race in Hawaii’s Aug. 9 election remains unresolved — the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate — and more than 8,000 voters on the Big Island will determine the outcome.
Sen. Brian Schatz, who was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in December 2012 to replace the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, is being challenged by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is giving up her House seat to run for Senate.
Schatz received 113,800 votes (48.5 percent) to Hanabusa’s 112,165 (47.8 percent) — a difference of 1,635 votes — with singer Brian Evans garnering 4,792 votes (2 percent). But due to damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, many Big Island voters were unable to go to the polls.
With the makeup election scheduled for Aug. 15 in two precincts, Hanabusa filed suit to postpone it, arguing that residents haven’t had enough time to recover and are still dealing with power outages and road closures, and some may not even be aware of the election.
Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura on Aug. 14 rejected the suit, allowing the election to go forward.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser said in an editorial, “The state Office of Elections ultimately made the right call by scheduling this Friday’s vote in two Puna precincts where, unfortunately, polling stations were shut down on Primary Election Day due to storm damage caused by Tropical Storm Iselle.
“That postponed vote should go ahead, despite a candidate-driven court challenge that argues for more time before balloting happens in Puna.”
Both Hanabusa and Schatz have been trying to walk a fine line, providing supplies to residents while also soliciting their support.
“As we move forward, we all need to remember what’s happening on the Big Island — and not in an electoral sense,” Schatz said on Aug. 10. “People are still without power, not yet receiving the FEMA support they need, having to chainsaw albizia trees themselves, and dealing with urgent water issues. All of our hearts and our thoughts are with the people of the Big Island and everyone who is still recovering.”
The winner will advance to the November general election and face Republican Cam Cavasso, a former state representative, who placed first in a field that also included counselor and social worker John Roco, former U.S. Senate and House candidate Harry Friel, and businessman Eddie Pirkowski.
The winner of the general election, widely expected to be the Democratic candidate, will serve the remainder of Inouye’s term.
Inouye’s name has been frequently invoked by Hanabusa, who notes that he wanted her to succeed him. Schatz has the support of another native son of Hawaii, President Obama.