U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will not challenge her narrow loss to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in court.
She conceded the election to Schatz late Tuesday.
But the congresswoman said she is still concerned about the state’s decision to delay the primary election for one week in two storm-damaged precincts on the Big Island.
Schatz defeated Hanabusa by just 1,769 votes in an election that saw more than 230,000 votes cast.
Last week, a Circuit Court judge in Hilo rejected Hanabusa’s request that the second primary, held Aug. 15, be delayed until more power was restored and more roads were cleared in Puna.
The rural area suffered significant damage from Tropical Storm Iselle the day before the Aug. 9 primary.
Hanabusa also said many Puna voters were unaware that the primary had been rescheduled in Precincts 04-01 and 04-02.
“Though I will not be challenging the results of this election, I remain very concerned about the public’s confidence and trust in our election process,” Hanabusa said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “I ask former colleagues and friends in the Hawaii State Legislature to explore what is necessary to ensure the people that their vote truly counts.”
Hanabusa continued: “I heard from many who feel strongly that they were disenfranchised from the voting process this election and I stand ready to support any collaborative effort to have those voices heard.”
Schatz had this response to Hanabusa’s statement: “This election has been extraordinary from beginning to end. It took heart, teamwork and a belief that together we are making a real difference for our state and our country.”
He added, “I want to congratulate Congresswoman Hanabusa on waging a spirited and tough battle. Now it is time for us to unite as we move forward to the general election.”
“I heard from many who feel strongly that they were disenfranchised from the voting process this election and I stand ready to support any collaborative effort to have those voices heard.” — Colleen Hanabusa
The senator faces Republican Cam Cavasso in the general.
Hanabusa expressed gratitude for the support her campaign had received.
“A big Mahalo to our volunteers and supporters for your hard work, sacrifice and most importantly, for your trust,” she said. “We would not have gotten as close as we did without the love and Aloha you poured into our campaign. I will forever be humbled and inspired by your support.”
The Schatz-Hanabusa race attracted national attention, largely because Schatz was appointed to fill the seat of Dan Inouye after the legendary Hawaii leader died at 88 in December 2012.
Inouye had asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie to choose Hanabusa to succeed him, but Abercrombie chose Schatz, his own lieutenant governor.
The decision was made in part because Abercrombie said Hawaii would be helped by a senator who could serve longer in office. Hanabusa is 63 while Schatz is 41.
Hanabusa argued in the campaign that she was the more accomplished politician who had solid leadership experience.
But now the race is over, and Hanabusa is focused on other matters.
“It is time for me to finish my work in the Congress and reflect on the last 16 years of my life in public office,” she said. “I always wanted to give back and make things better for the people of Hawaii by creating opportunities for the next generation to thrive. I can move on from this election knowing I listened to the people and fought hard for the right to represent them, honorably.”
Schatz’s seat is up again in 2016, which represents the final year of the six-year term Inouye was elected to in 2010.
While Hanabusa won’t challenge her election loss in court, others are said to be considering exactly that.
State Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents Puna, is among many who have expressed serious concerns that area residents did not get the chance to vote.
Others have also criticized the decision by Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago to hold the Puna primary so quickly, and some are calling for his removal.
The state Elections Commission is scheduled to meet Friday to discuss how the primary was handled.