I waited until the drama of the U.S. Senate race concluded Friday before I decided to write my postmortem on the Hawaii primary election.
Sure, that sucker might still come back to life if Colleen Hanabusa or others take the problematic Puna primary to court this week. Brian Schatz, meanwhile, says he’ll be back in the area Tuesday to do what he can to help the rural area buffeted by Ms. Iselle.
(Suggestion: bring a chain saw to all those albizia trees.)
Waiting until things were pau gave me the luxury of reading what everyone else had to say, including in Civil Beat, about the Fall of Abercrombie. So I won’t bother to rehash those arguments.
Instead, I’ll offer what I’ve learned from Aug. 9, 2014:
Lesson No. 1 Anyone can lose. From Eric Cantor in Virginia to Faye Hanohano in Puna, well-entrenched incumbents can easily mess things up and lose their job. Voters pay attention; voters rule.
Lesson No. 2 The Hawaii Legislature could be a considerably quieter place come January. In addition to Hanohano, Malama Solomon, Rida Cabanilla and Clayton Hee won’t be around. Some will be missed, others won’t.
Lesson No. 3 Money doesn’t matter much. Abercrombie out-raised David Ige by 10 to 1 while Schatz out-raised Hanabusa by 2 to 1. Mark Takai beat Donna Mercado Kim and Stanley Chang, though all three raised roughly the same amount of cash. (Caveat: Takai and Schatz were helped by outside money; Hanabusa and Kim were too, but not nearly to the extent of their opponents.)
Lesson No. 4 Grassroots always matter. Ige and Hanabusa, while she lost, spent a lot of time on the hustings, especially the neighbor islands. So did Takai in the 1st Congressional District. In Hawaii it still means a lot to see pols in the flesh.
Lesson No. 5 Debates can matter. Abercrombie bested Ige, but Ige didn’t fold. Hanabusa bested Schatz, but Schatz didn’t fold. These guys are all Democrats, and they agree on things a lot more than they disagree on them. But style and delivery matters, and the debates offered clear contrasts.
Lesson No. 6 Gender, age and ethnicity would seem to matter. In the top four races — gov, lieutenant gov, Senate and CD1 — the younger candidates prevailed. All were male. And three out of four were Japanese-American.
Lesson No. 7 Some polls got it right, some did not. Civil Beat and Merriman River Group went 4-for-4 in the top races while the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Ward Research went 2-for-4. We missed just how close the Schatz-Hanabusa race was or how far apart the Ige-Abercrombie race was, but we predicted Schatz would win and Civil Beat was the first to show Ige ahead in a poll back in June.
Lesson No. 8 Pollsters may have been right to exclude some candidates. I know that will piss off supporters of Kathryn Xian. But just 3,038 people voted for her compared with 52,719 for Takai. Having said that, maybe we should have left off Will Espero, Joey Manahan and Ikaika Anderson, too, who didn’t do much better than Xian.
Lesson No. 9 Pundits got many things wrong, me included. For example, I thought there was no way that Ige would unseat Abercrombie, and I said so often. And Xian turned out to be a pretty good candidate on the stump.
Lesson No. 10 As Abercrombie often says, Hawaii’s diversity defines us not divides us. The slate of candidates for all the primary races represented so many walks of life. But it remains dominated by one political party. A state with such a diversity of voices should include more from underrepresented ethnicities (such as Filipinos and Micronesians), ideologies (such as Republican, Libertarian and independent) and sexual orientation (more of everyone) in elected office.
Which brings me to Dan Inouye. By now most people have weighed in on whether his legacy and wish for Hanabusa to succeed him mattered. I think it’s too soon to say. Let’s wait instead until at least the general election campaign, which has already begun.
Indeed, Equality Hawaii already has its eyes on opposing Elwin Ahu, the New Hope pastor who beat Kimo Sutton in the GOP LG primary. Charles Djou opened his CD1 headquarters Sunday. And Ige, Republican Duke Aiona, independent Mufi Hannemann and Libertarian Jeff “The Solar Guy” Davis are scheduled for a joint forum Friday with the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.
Too soon? Yes.
But then, 60 percent of registered voters won’t even be paying attention. Unfortunately.
Which brings me to a final thought:
Lesson No. 11: Every … vote … counts.
Just ask Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa. So, “No vote, no grumble.”