HONOLULU — With the final votes in the Democratic primary cast Aug. 15 on the Big Island, Sen. Brian Schatz prevailed over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to win the party’s nomination and advance to the November election.
The primary was held on Aug. 9, but voters in two precincts in Puna were unable to get to the polls because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle. Hanabusa, who was 1,635 votes behind Schatz, sued to have the makeup election postponed because many residents were still dealing with blocked roads and power outages, but a judge ruled against her.
The additional votes gave Schatz a total of 115,401 (48.5 percent) to Hanabusa’s 113,632 (47.8 percent), a difference of 1,769 votes. Hanabusa said she would not contest the results, but expressed concern about those who were unable to cast votes being “disenfranchised.”
Schatz is expected to win the fall face-off with Republican Cam Cavasso and serve the remainder of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye’s term. Cavasso lost to Inouye in the 2010 election. There will be an election for a full six-year term in 2016.
Shortly after Inouye’s death in December 2012, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz, then lieutenant governor, to fill the vacancy. Some saw the move as disrespectful to Inouye, who had wanted Hanabusa to succeed him. First elected to the House in 2010, Hanabusa gave up her seat to run for Senate.
“Thank you to my family for being so supportive of me as I do my best to serve Hawaii,” Schatz said in a statement on Aug. 17. “Thank you to my supporters, from everywhere, as we ran a winning campaign and we did it the right way. Thank you to the people of Puna, who reminded me of everything that is special about Hawaii, Hawaii Island, and East Hawaii. Thanks to everyone who endured the anxiety, knocked on doors, gave money, or posted on FB. It has been a long road, but we did well, and we did good.”
Schatz said the following day that he had spoken with President Obama. “It meant a lot to hear from the president. His endorsement was important to me personally and to the campaign, and I thanked him for it. We talked primarily about the future and the need to work together for the country as a whole and for Hawaii, which will always be special to him. We still have the general election in front of us, but it was very heartwarming to hear from him.”
“A big mahalo to all of our volunteers and supporters,” Hanabusa said in a statement on Aug. 18. “Thank you for sacrificing your time and giving so much to our campaign. We are humbled and inspired by the love and aloha you shared with us.”
On election night, Hanabusa told her supporters, “Think about how many months we were without any kind of coverage in terms of buying political ads because we didn’t have the money. Think about a campaign that didn’t have all the people from the Mainland coming in and dumping all that money … Think about the ads you just saw in the newspaper at the last minute. Think about all the emails that have gone out against us, and yet we are in the position that we are in.”
Stating that the neck-and-neck race was “an amazing statement” regardless of the outcome, Hanabusa said, “What election do you remember that had a hurricane on it and another hurricane coming? … We’ve had so many things that we’ve all had to contend with, but the one thing I will never forget … you linked arms and said it doesn’t matter that they have more money.”
The Democratic primary also saw an upset, with State Sen. David Ige defeating incumbent Abercrombie by a wide margin. Abercrombie is Hawaii’s first sitting governor to lose in a primary.