A Fine Aloha This Saturday

As you probably know, Hawaii is currently being battered by Tropical Storm (formerly a Cat 4 hurricane) Iselle right now. As the Weather Channel reports, there’s extensive wind damage and a big threat of flooding, though the Big Island, not populous Oahu, is bearing the brunt of it all. If that’s not enough, Hurricane Julio (though probably downgraded to a Tropical Storm as well) could hit the state on Sunday.

In the middle of all this, the state is trying to hold a primary on Saturday. There’s no telling how the weather will affect things, though you have to figure GOTV is going to be a big challenge.

This is the first primary day of the cycle with high-stakes Democratic statewide contests. In the most nationally noted contest, appointed Sen. Brian Schatz is in a close contest with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa that has an ideological dimension (Schatz is considered significantly more progressive) but also big racial undercurrents. Schatz is emblematic of white progressive activists in Hawaii, and while serving as Lieutenant Governor was appointed by white progressive Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the Senate to succeed the late Japanese-American icon Daniel Inouye over his expressed wishes that the Japanese-American Hanabusa get the job. The incumbent has been endorsed by the president (Hanabusa along with Inouye endorsed HRC against him in 2008), and by many liberal and environmental groups, and was the early frontrunner. But polls have been all over the place, and the weather makes the outcome especially unpredictable.

Schatz looks to be in better shape, however, than his benefactor and former ticket-mate Abercrombie, who is suffering not only from backlash over the Schatz appointment but from various sources of disgruntlement over his gubernatorial tenure. He’s been trailing longtime state senator David Ige (another Japanese-American) in recent polls. Whoever wins will face a complicated three-way general election against Republican Duke Aiona (whom Abercrombie beat in 2010 after he had served as Linda Lingle’s Lieutenant Governor for two terms) and independent former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hanneman.

There’s also a seven-candidate Democratic primary to succeed Hanabusa in the House, with state senate president Donna Mercado Kim and state representative Mark Takai battling it out for the lead in most polls.

Should be a wild (but hopefully safe) weekend in the Aloha State.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.