U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa all won their Democratic primary races Saturday and are all well on their way back to Washington, D.C.
Schatz, who is seeking his first full six-year term in the U.S. Senate after his appointment in 2012, received 80.6 percent of the vote. His closest opponent in the Democratic primary, Makani Christensen, had 5.9 percent.
In the Republican Senate primary, John Carroll was leading with 61.7 percent. He will face off against Schatz in the November general election.
Schatz called his primary victory “especially sweet” in light of his bruising 2014 campaign against Hanabusa that came down to fewer than 2,000 votes.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done in our office over the last four years in terms of delivering federal resources and in terms of representing Hawaii’s priorities,” Schatz said. “You never know how that manifests in the ballot box, but we obviously did well and better than I had hoped.”
Gabbard, who is seeking her third two-year term in the 2nd Congressional District, took 77.6 percent of the vote. Her closest challenger, Shay Chan Hodges, of Maui, had 14.2 percent.
In the Republican CD2 primary, Angela Kaaihue had 39.9 percent and Eric Hafner had 29.9 percent. Kaaihue will face Gabbard in November.
Gabbard told Civil Beat that she considered the wide margin a “great vote of confidence” in her work in Congress.
Hanabusa received 74.6 percent of the vote in the 1st Congressional District race. In second place, Lei Ahu Isa had 11.6 percent of the vote. Shirlene Ostrov was unopposed in the Republican CD1 primary and will face Hanabusa in November.
There was little in the way of drama in the Senate and congressional races leading up to Saturday’s primary. Neither Schatz nor Gabbard faced a significant challenge, and Hanabusa had a similarly clear path to November.
The only real surprise was that Hanabusa was running for Congress at all. She decided to seek U.S. Rep. Mark Takai’s seat after he announced in May he would not run for re-election because of complications from pancreatic cancer. Hanabusa said Takai asked her run for the position.
Takai died in July.
“This one is really bittersweet because of the circumstances,” Hanabusa said. “It’s sweet because this was an election that seemed to have been meant to be. But it’s bitter because Mark has left us.”
It was the second time Hanabusa had been tapped by a dying lawmaker to take his seat. In 2012, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye called on then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa to replace him once he died. Hanabusa was in the U.S. House of Representatives at the time.
Abercrombie instead appointed Schatz, his lieutenant governor, to fill in for the senator until a special election could be held in 2014 to finish out the last two years of Inouye’s six-year term.
Schatz narrowly defeated Hanabusa in 2014 in a race that divided Hawaii’s Democratic Party.
After the bitter political battle, Hanabusa resumed her career on Oahu as a labor attorney and was appointed to influential positions on local boards. She’s currently chair of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board, which is overseeing construction of the city’s $8.3 billion commuter rail project that officials now say is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall.
In November, voters will decide if they want to send Hanabusa back to Congress for a full two-year term. They will also have the chance to vote in a special election that could send her to Washington, D.C., to finish out the last two months of Takai’s current term.
Candidates wanting to compete for the remainder of Takai’s current term can begin filing their candidacy paperwork Monday.