PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Voters from two precincts in Lower Puna now have a chance to decide a statewide race, but candidates will be walking a fine line between campaigning and storm recovery from Tropical Storm Iselle.
"The hippies in Puna are now going to decide who's in the Senate for the State of Hawaii," said Dave Brennan of Leilani Estates. He was talking about what he'd seen on social media Sunday.
The two precincts in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision have more than 8,200 registered voters, mathematically more than enough to tip the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate between Brian Schatz and Coleen Hanabusa. But the state Office of Elections said only 12 percent of them cast advance ballots for Saturday's primary. Those who wanted to go to the polls were not allowed to vote.
As a result, Lower Puna is now in an election spotlight that it has never had before.
"The back of the pack is what's gonna decide it for the front of the pack," said Hawaiian Paradise Park resident Mark Olmstead.
Local races are also being affected. In the Democratic primary for state House District 4, first-time candidate Joy San Buenaventura leads incumbent Rep. Faye Hanohano, but she's not taking it for granted.
"Based upon the 2012 primary there's still 2,715 votes out there. Probably more now that there's a lot of interest," said San Buenaventura. "So it's still way too soon to tell."
Hanohano has been in hot water in recent months, accused of making racist remarks. Hawaii News Now's request for an interview was declined.
Leilani Bronson-Crelly -- who stood outside the Hawaiian Paradise Park Community Center with a sign saying it was closed to voters -- had the third-highest number of votes. She said all candidates must be thinking about whether to try to get votes under the current circumstances.
"To be able to call up somebody who's helped my campaign in the past, but who's stuck behind fallen trees and cables, has no power, and say, ‘Hey, can you sign wave with me?' I think that's very insensitive, said Bronson-Crelly.
There's still the problem of communication, with several voters without land line phones, cell phone service, television, radio or Internet. Some voters HNN spoke with were unaware of the primary election outcome because of a lack of communication services.
The state Office of Elections said voters in the two precincts will have 21 days to mail an absentee ballot, but no date has been set as of yet to mail the ballots out to voters.
"I don't know if it's gonna affect the election, but you don't normally vote after you find out what the outcome of the election is," said Brennan.
When he was told that in in this case, the outcome wasn't really clear, he responded, "Well, that's the point."
Related story: Puna voters give edge to Schatz in close race with Hanabusa
Related story: Schatz leading after late votes tallied; final results may be weeks away
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