There were two surprising pieces of news out of Hawaii over the weekend. The first was the decisive defeat of Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D). The other was the tiny margin of votes separating incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Hawaii Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, despite the fact that polling for most of the race showed Schatz with a comfortable lead over Hanabusa.
As of early Monday morning eastern time Schatz was leading Hanabusa by a razor thin 1,635 vote lead or 49.3 percent to 48.6 percent, according to The Associated Press’s count of the election results. That’s a small margin and doesn’t totally mean Hanabusa is done. Here are a number of factors that could still decide the Senate primary.
Precincts In Puna District
As of Monday, all but two of the 247 precincts had been reporting full election results in the Senate primary. Some of the voters in those two remaining precincts, in the Puna District of the actual Hawaii island, weren’t able to cast their ballots because of a tropical storm that hit on Friday. Voters in those precincts now have three extra weeks to mail in ballots.
That gives Hanabusa a chance to reverse Schatz’s lead in her favor, even if it’s a bit of a longshot. There are just 8,255 registered voters in those precincts. Hanabusa would probably have to get about 60 percent of the votes in those precincts to turn things around. Keep in mind also that a chunk of those in the Puna precincts have already voted so the number of voters Hanabusa would need to win is in a pool of probably around 6,700. She would probably need to do even better among that remaining bit to win the precincts.
Schatz, it should also be noted, also leads among the Puna precincts that have thus far reported their their election results, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
Get Out The Vote Operations
Another big factor going forward is whether and how hard the two Democratic candidates plan to campaign. Hanabusa and Schatz have both said the number-one priority is for the residents in the Puna district to have water, power, and food. They also, however, hinted that they were planning to gear up to do some on the ground campaigning.
“The people of Puna are not just yet in a position to think about elections,” Schatz said according Civil Beat. “We’re hopeful and confident that will happen soon.”
“This election is not over,” Hanabusa said at her election night rally. “It is far from over. Anything can happen.”
Another factor that could play big is the liberal outside groups supporting either candidate. On Monday the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supports Schatz, started an “overtime” fundraising push to help the incumbent senator. Hanabusa, however, has the support of the influential EMILY’s List. If those groups make an aggressive push over the next few weeks, it could decide the outcome of the Democratic primary and, essentially, the election (the Hawaii Senate seat is considered safely Democratic).