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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz appears to have stretched out his lead over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, according to the latest Civil Beat Poll.
The survey of likely Democratic voters shows Schatz with a 49 percent to 41 percent edge on the congresswoman. That’s a wider lead than in May, the last time Civil Beat polled the race.
Poll results also show Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai is now the frontrunner in a seven-way free-for-all for the Democratic nomination in the state’s 1st Congressional District.
Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim previously held the edge, but now trails Takai by a 7 point margin.
Civil Beat surveyed 1,240 registered Hawaii voters statewide from July 24-28. Of those, 895 said they were likely to vote in the Democratic primary and of those 482 said they are in CD1.
The poll included land lines and cellphones. The margin of error for the Senate poll is 3.3 percent. It’s 4.5 percent for CD1.
Schatz continues to hold a firm lead in his bid to stay in office, and looks to have been adding to his support. Hanabusa on the other hand has a lot of work to do if she hopes to move from the House to the Senate.
“It might end up being a tick or two closer, but certainly Schatz is in the driver’s seat,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, the firm that conducted Civil Beat’s poll.
“Hanabusa has a history of doing a little better than her polling numbers and that should be respected in this race.”
Fitch attributes Hanabusa’s Election Day upswings to the fact that she does well with older Japanese voters, who tend to have an aversion to polls.
But even if Hanabusa pulls in a few extra votes from that voter group, Fitch doesn’t believe it will be enough to put her ahead of Schatz, who is already nearing 50 percent in the polls.
“The numbers in this race are so consistent,” Fitch said. “It’s a modest but stubborn lead.”
Fitch downplayed recent ad buys by EMILY’s List, the pro-choice women’s group that is backing Hanabusa over Schatz.
The political action committee is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the race, but it might be too late considering early voting is already underway.
When Civil Beat polled the race in May, Hanabusa had yet to take to the airwaves. At the time, Civil Beat’s poll showed Schatz was only ahead by 5 percentage points.
But several public and private polls, including one from Public Policy Polling on behalf of Democracy for America, found that Schatz was ahead of Hanabusa by double-digits.
A more recent poll conducted by PPP for the League of Conservation Voters found Schatz was up by 10, indicating Hanabusa could be pulling closer to her rival in the days leading up to the Aug. 9 primary.
There’s more fluctuation in the Democratic primary race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses the greater Honolulu area.
The poll shows 30 percent of participants going for Takai with 23 percent choosing Kim. For Takai that’s a 6 point jump from Civil Beat’s last CD1 poll in May. For Kim, that’s a 7 point slide.
Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang is in third with 15 percent, although Fitch doesn’t believe that’s enough for Chang to jump ahead of Takai or Kim.
“This one really is a two-horse race at this point,” Fitch said. “Certainly the momentum is in Takai’s favor.”
With so many candidates and a large number of undecideds — 14 percent of those polled — there are still enough possible votes to keep Kim competitive.
But, as Fitch noted, “It’s better to be ahead seven than behind seven.”
Support for the dark horse candidates could also shift over the next several days as voters consider backing a winner, meaning Takai and Kim could pick up more support.
Civil Beat polled the CD1 race in February and May. Both times Kim was in the lead, with Takai 5 or 6 points behind but trending upward.
Since then, there have been three debates, two of them televised, that have helped defined the candidates’ stances.
Takai was able to paint himself as more progressive than Kim, saying among other things that he was pro-gay marriage, something she opposes and which could hurt her in a primary that relies on left-leaning voters.
He has also received backing from VoteVets, a national advocacy group for veterans that recently began spending money supporting Takai’s campaign. Takai is a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Other candidates included in Civil Beat’s poll are Hawaii Sen. Will Espero and Honolulu City Councilmen Ikaika Anderson and Joey Manahan. Civil Beat did not include community activist Kathryn Xian, a minor candidate, in any of its polls.
Whoever wins the CD1 primary will square off in the November general election against presumed Republican nominee Charles Djou.
Coming Monday: Our pollsters explain the methodology behind Civil Beat’s polls. And watch for full results and crosstabs as we wrap up our final poll before the Aug. 9 primary.