Hawaii Democratic Senate race down to the wire — in leftover precincts and delayed votes

Hawaii Democratic Senate race down to the wire — in leftover precincts and delayed votes
(Image credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz/LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response via Getty Images)

The Democratic primary in Hawaii for the U.S. Senate is now set to go to a very unusual round of extra innings, in the tight race between the appointed incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz and his challenger Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Schatz has 113,789 votes, for 49.3 percent, to Hanabusa's 112,154 votes, for 48.6 percent.

Now here is the big twist: The two final precincts have not actually voted at all yet. The two sites, located in the Puna district of the Big Island, were closed as a result of Tropical Storm Iselle, and contain about 8,000 registered voters — a number greater than the current 1,635-vote lead that Schatz has over Hanabusa.

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The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that voters in these precincts will be sent mail-in absentee ballots, and that under state law the voting process must be completed within 21 days. A campaign co-chairman for Schatz told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: "We really have to go and contact the people we know on that island."

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. Gov. Neil Abercrombie's decision to appoint Schatz has been seen as controversial, however, because Inouye himself had requested in a deathbed letter that Abercrombie should appoint Hanabusa to succeed him. For his part, Schatz has stressed his work on behalf of the state and his loyalty to Democratic issues, in his campaign for the special election.

There is also another Hawaii result that makes Schatz's apparent lead all the more impressive: The man who appointed him, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, lost his own primary for re-election in a truly overwhelming landslide, after a term that was beset by unpopularity on a number of local issues. State Sen. David Ige took 155,184 votes, for 67 percent, against Abercrombie's mere 72,298 votes, for 31 percent.

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