Hawaii elections: Money, many debates, close races
By CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) - It's the year of the underdog in Hawaii, where a soft-spoken Democrat knocked out the sitting governor in the primary election, and a strong third-party candidate is making one race difficult to predict.
Voters ousted Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary, indicating an electorate that's hungry for change. And the death of iconic Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye led to a vacancy in the U.S. House that Republicans are angling to fill.
In left-leaning Hawaii, Republicans are putting up good fights, and money from outside has been pouring in to the governor's race and a close House race, where the two main parties are putting all their resources into the final days.
Voters on Hawaii's Big Island who were dealing with downed trees from a tropical storm during the primary election now have hot lava from an active volcano oozing toward some of their homes, proving that in Hawaii, elections this year aren't complete without tinkering from Mother Nature.
One of the hottest races in Hawaii will determine whether the left-leaning state will send a bi-partisan delegation in Washington. The race in the 1st Congressional District is to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who gave up her seat in an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate.
Republican Charles Djou, who held the seat for seven months after a special three-way election, has been arguing that Hawaii would have a stronger voice in Washington if it had a representative in the majority party, especially if Senate control shifts to Republicans.
Democratic state Sen. Mark Takai knew he would have a challenge on his hands, having less name-recognition than Djou. But he's been trying to remind voters that Democrats have done a lot for Hawaii, and he wants to continue that tradition. Takai, a long-time swimmer and former University of Hawaii athlete, says he's been swimming three times a week to stay centered through the election.
In Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District, avid surfer U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard - a Democrat - is expected to have an easy ride to victory.
Hawaii's gubernatorial race has been considered unpredictable with three well-known candidates and one lesser-known running for the state's highest office. The candidates appeared in about 20 debates and forums, eventually joking that they could finish each other's sentences because they met so many times.
State Sen. David Ige came from behind in a dramatic upset during the primary, unseating Hawaii's Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, even after being outspent 10-to-1.
But as soon as the primary was tied up, Ige faced strong opposition from Republican James "Duke" Aiona and the Republican Governors Association, which poured at least $1.8 million into campaign ads painting Ige as an Abercrombie ally who would raise taxes.
The Democratic Governors Association also jumped in, fueling Hawaii Forward which spent $1.5 million on mostly negative ads aimed at Aiona.
A wild card in the race is Mufi Hannemann, an Independent Party candidate a former Democrat and former Mayor of Honolulu, who is known for pushing Honolulu's rapid transit plans and advocating for an inter-island super ferry. Libertarian Jeff Davis, who has his own radio show and made YouTube videos about spending the night in a homeless encampment, was disappointed to be left out of some of the debates.
U.S. SENATE RACE
All the drama in Hawaii's Senate race - a death-bed wish, a poorly timed hurricane - happened in the primary, when U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa tried to unseat fellow Democrat, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. The election went into extra innings after a tropical storm closed two polling stations, and the race on election night was too close to call. But Schatz held on to his seat, heading into a general election where he is expected to cruise to victory in the race against Republican challenger Cam Cavasso.
After the primary, there were no debates between Schatz and Cavasso in a race that was widely considered over before it began. Cavasso called out Schatz for not debating him, asking in mass emails, "Where is Schatz? Is he ill?" Cavasso said in his own campaign ad that voters should pick him because the late Sen. Daniel Inouye had wanted Hanabusa, not Schatz, to finish his term.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.