PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — Sen. Brian Schatz beat U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Hawaii, closing out a tight, emotional race that went into overtime after a tropical storm kept some voters from the polls.
Schatz extended his slim vote lead late Friday during a makeup election for thousands of voters in two remote precincts who couldn't cast ballots during the state's regular primary last Saturday because of blocked roads and power outages caused by Tropical Storm Iselle.
The incumbent senator came into the makeup primary with an advantage, but both candidates spent dozens of hours over the past week delivering water and handing out food to residents in the Big Island's Puna region, an often-neglected rural area that was ravaged by the storm a week ago. On Friday, Schatz and Hanabusa campaigned on the side of the road leading to the polling station, where a steady stream of voters lined up to cast their ballots.
"This was obviously an extremely hard fought race, but we're gratified that the voters heard our message and recognized that I've been working hard for the people of Hawaii," Schatz said in an interview with The Associated Press late Friday.
The race to fill the rest of the beloved, late Sen. Daniel Inouye's term divided Democrats in Hawaii, with some loyal to the state's grandfather of politics and other eager for a fresh set of leaders free from the old guard. Some Democrats were offended after Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz to Inouye's seat after his death in 2012, despite Inouye's wish that the governor chose Hanabusa to replace him.
In another race that set Democrats against each other, Abercrombie lost his primary last Saturday in a stunning defeat to a state senator, becoming the first Hawaii governor to lose a primary re-election bid.
The Senate campaign had been somewhat personal battle that pitted two politicians with few policy differences in a race with several emotional tinges. Hanabusa had said she didn't consider Schatz a true incumbent, while Schatz played up his endorsement from President Barack Obama and argued that he has proven himself early in his Senate career. Schatz also outspent Hanabusa by $1 million during his campaign, and his ads dominated TV and radio.
In the days leading up to Friday's makeup primary, Hanabusa tried to delay the election to give area residents more time to recover from the storm, but she lost a court challenge.
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