Senate candidates converge on rural Puna

Senate candidates converge on rural Puna
Published: Aug. 11, 2014 at 10:22 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 13, 2014 at 1:17 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Puna wasn't exactly a hot spot for the senate candidates, but it is now that Hurricane Iselle delayed voting for two precincts.

Hollywood fiction meets political reality in Puna.  In the movie "Swing Vote" Kevin Costner plays the part of Bud Johnson, a no name from New Mexico. His vote turns out to be the last one needed to determine the next President.  Now in similar fashion the people of Puna have all the attention of the Democratic US Senate candidates.

"You couldn't make this up. It is so close to the movies," said Colin Moore, Political Analyst and UH Manoa Political Science Professor. "Some of these people who wouldn't otherwise have voted who maybe have checked out of the process may think again now that they have an opportunity to perhaps decide the whole election."

It's especially ironic because much of Puna is without electricity, yet the community finds itself with new found political power.

"I think it's going a step too far to pay to get people's trees cleared or something but talking about policies and maybe changing their minds about some policies would be perfectly appropriate," said Prof. Moore.  "Folks in rural parts of the state feel like they rarely get a chance to make their voice heard so this could draw a lot of attention to these issues."

Brian Schatz leads Colleen Hanabusa by 1,635 votes. In total there are 8,255 voters in the two affected precincts. Only 12 percent or 990 of them cast their ballots already. That means there are 7,265 people who have not cast their ballot. Hanabusa would need to get 62 percent of them in order to take the lead. However the wildcard is we do not know how the 990 people who already voted cast their vote.

Both Hanabusa and Schatz are already on the Big Island.  Schatz was helping unload supplies in Nanawale and met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army National Guard today.

Hanabusa took an aerial tour of the damage.

"This is a complicated and fluid situation but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a storm ravaged community struggling to pull together basic life necessities. The people of Puna need water, ice, fuel and food. We will work with the state office of elections to address the outstanding ballots in this too close to call race but our primary concern is for the health and welfare of those families in Puna affected by Hurricane Iselle," said Peter Boylan, with the Hanabusa Campaign, in a written statement.

Both campaigns will have to walk the fine line between concern and coming off opportunistic.  After all this isn't the movies.

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