Schatz wins overtime Hawaii primary

Greg Nash

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) has defeated Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) in the bitter Hawaii Senate primary, nearly a week after voting first began.

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Schatz's lead grew to 1,769 votes following added results from two precincts that had to delay their elections until Friday because of damage from Hurricane Iselle. 

With all votes in, the Associated Press called the race for Schatz, who won 1,597 votes in results announced Friday while Hanabusa got 1,463. 

Schatz told supporters it had been an "extraordinary week for all of us" following the results, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Hanabusa told the Civil Beat that she hasn't decided about whether or not to pursue a legal challenge.

“People, they’re not letting this go,” Hanabusa said in Puna. “And every single one has used the word ‘disenfranchised.’”

Even after the damaged precints cast their votes Friday, there was another added wrinkle in what's been an unusual election process. Just before polls closed, Hawaii officials announced they'd found 800 uncounted Maui ballots from last Saturday's primary, leading to complaints from both Hanabusa and Schatz.

Hanabusa said she was "stunned" by the misplaced votes, while Schatz called the error "outrageous."

Based on those irregularities, Hanabusa could choose to ask for a recount or take other legal action protesting how the election was run. But for now, Schatz is the winner of the hard-fought primary.

A judge ordered on Thursday that in-person voting would take place in the two precincts as planned on Friday, rebuffing protestations and a failed legal challenge from Hanabusa's campaign to delay voting because the storm-ravaged areas hadn't recovered enough to go to the polls. Parts of Puna, the affected area, still don't have power and running water more than a week after the storm hit.

With Schatz's victory, all incumbent senators facing primary challenges have now survived, marking the first time since 2008 a sitting senator hasn't lost in a primary. While most targeted senators have been Republicans under fire from the Tea Party, Schatz's vulnerabilities stemmed from the way he came into office and the state's racial divisions. 

Schatz was appointed to the seat after the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), a local hero who had asked on his deathbed that Hanabusa replace him. 

But Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) decided to go with Schatz, then his lieutenant governor, instead. Abercrombie was defeated by over 35 points in his own primary last week by state Sen. Dan Ige (D). Still, as Abercrombie’s popularity plummeted, Schatz was able to create some separation from the less-than-beloved governor.

Schatz outraised and outspent Hanabusa by a wide comfortable margin. While EMILY’s List spent a half-million dollars on the congresswoman’s behalf, Schatz received support from liberal groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has also worked to help Schatz this past week. 

The incumbent has also trumpeted an endorsement from favorite son President Obama, helping to boost his name identification following his appointment. Hanabusa had the backing of Inouye's widow and family. 

This post was updated at 3:02 a.m. 

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