UPDATED AT 11 P.M.

Mazie Hirono handily defeated Ed Case by a margin of 57-40 percent in the Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate, according to the voting results released late Saturday.

Final results will be made available early Sunday, but this race is over.

“On behalf of our kupuna, our keiki, our middle class families who need a Senator on their side — I’m proud to be your nominee for the United States Senate,” Hirono said in her acceptance speech.

Hirono already has her sights on Linda Lingle, the Republican she now faces in the general election.

Her campaign will continue to focus on protecting Social Security and Medicare, opposing tax cuts that favor the wealthy and retaining control of the Senate for Democrats.

“Whatever you may think of Linda Lingle — know that this is what her election would represent — one of the four seats the national Republicans need to take control of the U.S. Senate,” she said.

“So I say to Linda Lingle tonight — let’s go. Let’s have debates on the issues and what is right for Hawaii – on every major television station in our state.”

Case, the former U.S. representative, conceded after the second batch of results was released. The trend that had him behind by double-digits continued throughout the night.

“That road I talked about earlier tonight, that road just ended,” Case told his supporters.

He thanked them for their help and said that he hoped Hirono would represent the Democratic Party well.

“I’m so sorry we couldn’t deliver a win tonight,” he said. “This isn’t the end. This isn’t the end of our dreams together. This isn’t the end.”

Lingle had a whopping 90 percent to 6 percent lead over main Republican primary challenger John Carroll.

“The people of Hawaii now have a clear choice in this once-in-a-generation election,” said Lingle. “This race is important because the opportunity to elect a new senator from our state is so rare, and because of the unprecedented challenges facing our country. Our way of life is being threatened because of the failure of D.C. politicians like my opponent. They failed Hawaii and they failed America. She failed us.”

Case Is Three and Out

Three other Republicans in the Senate contest — Eddie Pirkowski, Charles Collins and John Roco — combined had just 2.3 percent. Three other Democrats — Michael Gillespie, Antonio Gimbernat and Art Reyes — combined had just 1.4 percent.

Nonpartisan candidate Heath Beasley had 43 percent of the vote in his uncontested primary, compared with 57 percent of votes that were left blank.

For Case, it was his third straight major electoral loss. He lost to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the 2006 primary and to Charles Djou in the 2010 special election to fill the remainder of Neil Abercrombie‘s term in Congress.

Colleen Hanabusa finished second in that race to Djou. The third-place finish prompted Case to bow out of the Democratic primary against Hanabusa, which Hanabusa won; she then defeated Republican Djou in the general.

Talk has already turned to whether this is the end of Case’s political career. Hirono, however, begins a new chapter.

The man who Hirono hopes to succeed, Akaka, joined her at Hirono’s 99 Ranch headquarters in Mapunapuna once the race was in the bag.

“To Senator Akaka — you are a man who represents the best of Hawaii: the embodiment of love and aloha, what we all aspire to be,” said Hirono.

“What a great night this is,” said Akaka, who is retiring. “We can’t congratulate Mazie enough. … She’s our candidate. It’s so important that we have a great team in the Congress.”

Contrasting Candidates

Hirono and Case are both attorneys and former state legislators who have served in Congress. As Democrats, they share many of the same views.

But there were issues they differed on during the campaign — like raising the retirement age for Social Security — and they demonstrated very different styles — Case more independent-minded and even iconoclastic, Hirono priding herself on what she calls her collaborative style.

That explains in part why the Democratic establishment from Hawaii to D.C., including unions and women’s groups, firmly backed Hirono in the primary while Case had little outside support.

It also explains the vast difference in fundraising, with Hirono enjoying a 4-to-1 advantage in campaign contributions.

During the campaign, which started early in 2011 when Sen. Daniel Akaka announced he would retire, Hirono benefitted from her position as a U.S. representative, voting on legislation and keeping in the public eye as an elected official. Case, however, spent his time trying to develop grass roots support.

Hirono largely ignored Case during the primary campaign, focusing her attention instead on Lingle. She stressed her values as a reason to vote for her. Case focused heavily on Hirono and stressed that the election represents a vote on Hawaii’s next generation of leadership.

A key turning point in the race might have been Hirono’s decision to decline a debate with Case on network television. She accepted instead four limited appearances and a single television forum on PBS Hawaii.

One of the forums was later cancelled, however, and late in the race Hirono suddenly announced that she would debate Case on network TV after all.

In the end, it was Hirono that prevailed over the candidate who came very close to derailing her nomination for governor in the 2002 Democratic primary. Hirono would end up losing the general election to Lingle.

Now, Hirono has her rematch.

“If you care about Hawaii and about our country — whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent — you and I know that we want to move forward, not backward,” she said. “And I’m going to fight for that every step of the way and I ask all of you to join me in that.”

Lingle is ready.

“My opponent, Mazie Hirono, and her third party allies are likely to spend more than one million dollars attacking me and distorting my record,” she said. “But the people of Hawaii know me, they know my record, and they know that I am experienced in making the tough decisions necessary while always putting people first.”

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