- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Former Rep. Colleen Hanabusa won the Democratic primary in Hawaii on Saturday and could return to her old seat in the U.S. House.

Hanabusa is running to fill the post left vacant by U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, who died in July after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer. She previously held the seat for four years, but she gave it up to run for Senate in 2014, hoping to fulfill U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye’s dying wish that she take his place. She lost that race to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

“Tonight is bittersweet because of the conditions on which it came about,” Hanabusa said. “But it’s an amazing sense to know that since we started to run in June…to have this type of support in that short period of time, it really is an amazing statement, and it tells me that people remember and have confidence in the job that I’ve done for them in the past.”

Some voters at the polls Saturday said they were happy to have the chance to return Hanabusa to her old seat.

“Dan Inouye endorsed her, and I was a Dan Inouye fan,” said Charles Caywood, who voted at Kahala Elementary School.

“She did an excellent job when she was formerly a congresswoman,” said Rich Turbin, 70, a lawyer. “And although I’m very, very sad about Mark Takai’s tragic death, I believe that Colleen Hanabusa would be the best successor to Mark, and she’ll do a great job when she’s elected.”

Hanabusa was widely expected to advance to the November election. She was one of seven Democrats competing for the seat, but none came close to the name recognition Hanabusa enjoyed as a former U.S. representative and the first woman to lead the Hawaii Senate, where she served for more than a decade.

“She’s a real aggressive representative,” said Rai Saint Chu, 69, an attorney, who voted at Kahala Elementary School. “She’s sometimes like a bulldog,” she said, adding that she meant it as a compliment.

In the general election, Hanabusa will run for the two-year term that begins in January and in a special election to finish the last two months of Takai’s term.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard also won her Democratic primary and is expected to beat her Republican challenger during the general election. She said she was grateful and humbled by the vote of confidence. If she wins the general election, she plans to tackle homelessness, Hawaii’s high cost of living and rural access to health care and quality education.

“Families are being priced out of paradise, priced out of their homes, being forced to move to the mainland because they can’t afford to put a roof over their heads,” Gabbard said.

In Hanabusa’s four-year congressional stint, she served on the House Armed Services Committee, the Committee on Natural Resources and the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs.

While on a break from politics, she returned to her law practice where she represented the Hawaii State Teachers Association and other clients. She also served as chairwoman of the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit and as a board member for Hawaii Gas.

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Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbussewitz

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