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Schatz Holds Small Lead over Hanabusa in Hawaii Democratic Primary

In a rare, bitterly fought Democratic senatorial primary, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) holds a lead of 1788 votes over challenger Colleen Hanabusa, with 8000 voters yet to cast ballots in yesterday's primary on account of a huge storm in the Pacific. Under Hawaii law, elections can be delayed up to 21 days on account of natural disasters. Ballots will be mailed to the 8000 registered voters on Hawaii Island who couldn't vote yesterday at the polling places that were closed because the access roads were damaged by Tropical Storm Iselle. It may be a week or more before the Democratic nominee is known. The Republican nominee is Cam Cavasso, a former member of the Hawaii state legislature. He won his primary easily. However, he is a deep underdog in a state that has elected only one Republican senator in its history, most recently in 1970.

Hawaii politics always have an ethnic undertone. When the late senator Daniel Inouye, a Japanese American, lay on his deathbed in 2012 after having served in Congress since Hawaii was admitted to the union in 1959, he asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), also a Japanese American, to his seat. Abercrombie ignored him and appointed his own lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, a Jewish American who was born in Michigan but raised in Hawaii since he was two. Hanabusa promptly announced she would challenge Schatz in a primary and the election is still too close to call. Inouye's widow, also a Japanese American, has supported Hanabusa. Ethnic politics are no stranger to America, and elections like this often play out when a white person runs for, say, Congress in a majority black district.

Update: According to one calculation, Hanabusa would have to get nearly 2/3 of the votes in the precincts that did not vote Saturday due to the storm. This is a higher percentage than she got anywhere in Hawaii on election day. Furthermore, roads are still closed in some areas, meaning that mail trucks may not be able to deliver the absentee ballots and the filled-in ballots may not arrive back in time. Also, under Hawaii law, in order to qualify for a recount, a candidate must have a better reason than "it was close." All these factors increase the chances that Schatz will ultimately win.

Abercrombie Defeated in Gubernatorial Primary in Hawaii

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) was upset in his bid for reelection yesterday by state senator David Ige, a Japanese American. The lopsided vote was 67% to 32%. Japanese Americans make up 23% of the population in Hawaii but a much larger percentage of them vote than do other ethnic groups in this multicultural state, so their votes are often decisive. It is entirely possible that they wanted to send a message to Abercrombie about his failure to heed Inouye's wish and appoint Hanabusa.

On the other hand, given the vote totals, many people who voted against Abercrombie did not vote against Schatz, so factors other than ethnicity were at play here. One of them may have been the endorsement of Schatz by President Obama. Normally Presidents don't get involved in primaries since it generates bad blood if the endorsee's opponent wins, but Obama owed Schatz one. Early in 2008, when Schatz was chairman of the Hawaii Democratic Party, he endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton. Obama probably hasn't forgotten, and in the event he did, now-senator Schatz probably reminded him. In any event, Ige will face former lieutenant governor James Aiona (R) in the general election. Although Hawaii always votes for the Democrat in presidential elections, in state elections, Republicans sometimes win. In particular, Aiona served for 8 years under a Republican governor, Linda Lingle (who is Jewish). Complicating the race is the presence of Mufi Hannemann, a Samoan American Mormon running as an independent. Hannemann is very well known in Hawaii since he served two full terms as the mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii's largest city. Hannemann is likely to pull more votes from Ige than from Aiona, so the race is unpredictable.

Federal Judge Upholds North Carolina Law Restricting Voting

On Friday, a federal judge, Thomas D. Schroeder, upheld. a controversial North Carolina voting law and said it can be applied in the 2014 midterm elections. The law was passed by the Republican-dominated state legislature last year. It requires voters to present official identification to vote as well as shortening the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days, ending same-day registration, removing limits on campaign contributions, and ending straight party-line voting, which has been in effect for 90 years. Supporters of the law claim that it will reduce undetected voter fraud. The law specifically states that college ID cards, even those issued by state universities, do not count as valid IDs for voting purposes. Opponents call it a naked attempt to reduce turnout among minorities and young people, blocs that vote heavily Democratic. There will certainly be appeals and the case may well wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly before the 2016 elections. Judge Schroeder was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

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