Sen. Brian Schatz has emerged Friday night as the apparent winner in a hotly contested Democratic Senate primary in Hawaii where he had once been regarded as seriously vulnerable, maintaining the lead that he first gained in last Saturday's primary night against a major challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
The final voting in two precincts, located in the Puna District on the Big Island, were delayed because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle. And in another complication, it also emerged tonight that 800 previously uncounted absentee ballots were discovered from Maui, and would be included in the new results.
After last Saturday night, Schatz led by 1,635 votes out of a total of about 230,000 cast. Thus, going into tonight's voting Hanabusa needed to win the new ballots by an overwhelming margin. But as of Friday night, Schatz has actually increased his lead by 134 votes, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports, for a total lead of 1,769.
On Friday night, Hanabusa told Honolulu-based Civil Beat that she might still challenge the election results, based on voter access issues caused by the storm. She had actually gone to court, seeking to further delay the votes in Puna, on the grounds that the area was still too damaged to proceed — but her effort was denied by a judge on Thursday.
Schatz was appointed to the Senate in December 2012, after having previously served as lieutenant governor, following the death of longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye, a World War II veteran and virtual political institution in the state. By appointing Schatz, however, Gov. Neil Abercrombie defied a request by Inouye himself, in a deathbed letter, asking Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to succeed him. These circumstances make Schatz's apparent victory all the more impressive — especially since his former running mate and the man who appointed him, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, lost his own Democratic renomination on Saturday by a landslide margin, due to his personal unpopularity on a host of local issues.