Wild Weekend in Hawaii

Well, it could have been a lot worse for Hawaii over the weekend. Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropic storm before hitting the islands, and weakened still more after landfall; there was significant wind and flooding damage, particularly on the Big Island, but no casualties so far as we know. And Hurricane Julio veered to the north of Hawaii, as it, too, lost maximum destructive power.

But two precincts in the Puna district on the east side of the Big Island had roads blocked by flooding on Saturday, leading to a ruling that its registered voters had three weeks to cast ballots by mail. And the estimated 7,000-8,000 affected voters will decide the close Democratic Senate primary between Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Schatz currently leads by just over 1,600 votes.

David Nir of Daily Kos Elections undertakes an quick analysis of the missing votes this morning and concludes Schatz will almost certainly hang on. But the mathematical probabilities likely won’t keep both campaigns from a frantic last-minute effort.

It’s way too late, however, for the man who appointed Schatz to the Senate, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who lost to state senator David Ige by a shocking 36 points despite Hawaii’s relatively good economic conditions. It seems he took more of the heat for the dissing of the late Daniel Inouye’s wishes (he had expressly asked on his deathbed that Hanabusa succeed him) that did his beneficiary. And it may just be that the often-abrasive former congressman’s act grew old to voters after a long career.

In any event, if the Senate results hold, it gives Hawaii Democrats an aesthetically pleasing racial split in the statewide ticket. Unless something strange happens, Democrats will win the Senate general election easily. But Ige will have a trial in November, with former Honolulu Mayor (and also former Democrat) Muffi Hanneman running an independent campaign that could greatly benefit Republican nominee (and former Lieutenant Governor) Duke Aiona. The storms aren’t quite over in Hawaii politics this year.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.