Tuesday, August 12, 2014
It remains mathematically possible for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to pull out a victory against U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. But realistically, not so much.
Indeed, based on their campaigns' performance since Saturday night, it may be more likely that Schatz increases his lead when the votes are counted in two Big island storm-ravaged communities. More on that further down in this piece.
After Saturday’s Primary Election, Schatz leads Hanabusa by 1,635 votes, 113,800 to 112,165. Among the votes cast for the two of them, Schatz leads by a razor thin 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent—an eight-tenths of a percent difference.
But that statewide percentage number doesn’t matter.
The entire election for Dan Inouye’s U.S. Senate seat comes down to a 1,635-vote margin, and whether the Puna residents in Districts 4-01 and 4-02, whose polls could not open Saturday and who have not yet voted, will favor Hanabusa by more than that.
How likely is that?
There are 8,269 registered voters in those two rural districts, where massive fallen albizia trees have shut down roads and power and devastated the community. The votes of 1,448 have already been counted, leaving 6,821.
The residents from both precincts are invited to vote Friday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Keoneopoko Elementary School. Government officials say they expect to have the roads open in time.
When it’s over, there’s a good chance that these two little Puna districts will have the highest voter turnout in the state—because suddenly, their votes really matter. Whichever candidate wins, it will be a candidate for whom Puna is on the map. The people of Puna will have had face time with a likely U.S. Senator, something few of us get.
If 100 percent of the remaining voters vote in the Democratic Primary, for Hanabusa to win, she’ll need to win by a margin of 4,228 to 2,593 or 62 percent to 38 percent.
But it won’t be 100 percent. A few folks won’t show up to vote. There will be a couple of spoiled ballots. A couple of folks will vote Republican, although most Republicans will switch and vote the Democratic side of the ballot, since the Republican race for Senate is irrevocably won by Cam Cavasso and there aren’t any dogfights left in any other party.
Let’s assume that 80 percent of the potential voters actually cast Democratic ballots, call it 5,456 voters. That would be near double the statewide percentage turnout. Hanabusa would need 3,545 to get even. That’s 65 percent of the vote.
She would need two votes to every one of Schatz’ votes.
If only 50 percent come out--close to statewide voter turnout averages--she'll need three votes for every one for Schatz.
It is still theoretically possible for Colleen Hanabusa to defeat Brian Schatz, to get far, far more votes than he does. That presumes that Hanabusa were running a tight, smart campaign targeted at the struggling Puna population.
But she’s not.
Three days before the special election, she’s already acting like she’s lost.
Three days before the vote, she is threatening lawsuits instead of campaigning. Her office released this statement: “Our campaign is currently reviewing all legal options at this time.”
Three days before the special election, she is laying the groundwork to challenge the election: “It is unrealistic to think people struggling to find basic necessities and get out of their homes will have the ability to go to the polls Friday.”
So, if voters do come out to vote in high numbers, will she drop her consideration of a challenge? Likely not, because the courthouse is probably the only chance Colleen Hanabusa has. She needs to force a revote, force a recount, or hope that someone finds a misplaced stack of a couple of thousand Hanabusa ballots in some corner.
And as for the issue of swaying public opinion in her favor, the post-election news reports are catastrophic for Hanabusa.
There are images of Schatz on the ground, personally hauling bottled water to stranded residents refusing to talk to reporters, and notably not wearing a campaign shirt.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Hanabusa was flying overhead in a helicopter, and later toured the area by car and on foot, and issuing media statements that election officials are screwing up.
Which candidate are voters more likely to remember on Friday?
© Jan TenBruggencate 2014