- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - In heavily Democratic Hawaii, the primary election - not the general - is the main event. And Saturday’s election offers plenty of political drama and intrigue in a state that is known more for beaches and surf than intense campaigning.

This year is different, with a Senate race to replace the state’s top political icon in U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and a governor’s race that could see the incumbent, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, shooed away by Democrats backing an upstart.

Here are five things to watch out for as Hawaii’s primary election unfolds on Saturday night:


In the week leading up to the election, some voters scrambled to get to the polls early while campaigns suspended events and took down signs in anticipation of two hurricanes. One weakened to a tropical storm, then passed through Hawaii late Thursday and early Friday. A second hurricane loomed, but it was expected to pass north of the archipelago early Sunday.

Elections officials said Friday that voting would be postponed for 8,000 registered voters in two precincts on the Big Island, where access to the polls was cut off by damaged roadways.

Officials have promised the primary will go on for everyone else and the results tallied Saturday night and early Sunday. But if there are more problems because of wind, rain and flooding, elections officials could extend voting hours, consolidate polling places or - as a last resort - postpone the election altogether.


The race most people in Washington have been following this 2014 primary season is a U.S. Senate race for the Democratic nomination between U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. It’s a somewhat personal battle that pits two politicians with few policy differences in a race with several emotional tinges. Schatz was appointed by Abercrombie to replace Inouye after Inouye died in late 2012 - a decision that went against Inouye’s wishes made known in a letter to Abercrombie. Hanabusa has said she doesn’t consider Schatz a true incumbent because he hasn’t won an election, and the two have been arguing since about seniority, federal funding for Hawaii and other issues.


Hawaii’s governor’s race is about voters passing judgment on Abercrombie - something he might want to avoid right now, based on a recent poll that shows him well behind in the race. Abercrombie faces a tough challenge from state Sen. David Ige, who has criticized Abercrombie’s personal style and said he would be more collaborative. Abercrombie has outspent Ige tenfold, yet Ige is more than a token competitor. The winner among the Democrats will likely face Republican James “Duke” Aiona and Independent Party candidate Mufi Hannemann, the former mayor of Honolulu, in the general election.


Hanabusa vacating her House seat that covers urban Honolulu has created a seven-way race among Democrats to replace her. The field is wide open, with state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and state Rep. Mark Takai the front-runners. Republican Charles Djou, who held the seat briefly after a special election, is expected to win the Republican nomination.


Hawaii is known for its unpredictability and voter apathy, as it has one of the lowest voter-turnout rates in the nation. Roughly half the state votes early, but the share could rise as campaigns and officials urged people to vote early especially while the hurricanes made their way across the Pacific. The tight races and other factors could make for an election that’s anything but routine for the islands.


Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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