East Hawaii News

Schatz Beats Hanabusa in Controversial Puna Primary

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A controversial chapter in Hawaii’s primary election history seemingly came to a close this evening, as Senator Brian Schatz edged out Representative Colleen Hanabusa in a special election held in Puna for residents impacted by some of the worst effects of Hurricane Iselle.

According to the Office of Elections, Schatz officially finished the primary election with 1,769 more votes than Hanabusa in one of the closest Senate elections in recent memory.

The final report by the Office of Elections was issued just after 8:22 p.m. on Aug. 15, and showed Schatz with a total of 115,401 primary votes to Hanabusa’s 113,632, a less than 1% difference.

Sen. Russell Ruderman. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Russell Ruderman. Courtesy photo.

A day earlier, Big Island Judge Greg Nakamura rejected a request for an emergency temporary restraining order to halt the election. Hanabusa had filed a lawsuit against the state Office of Elections in an attempt to delay today’s special primary.


Heading into the special election, Hanabusa trailed Schatz by just 1,635 votes.

Critics of the special election voiced concerns over residents’ ability to access their ballots.

In a letter published by Big Island Now on Aug. 12, state Senator Russell Ruderman stated, “My question is, why was a decision so hastily made to designate Friday the 15th as the day for elections for the two affected areas, when so many residents along Red Road, in Pohoiki, and other areas of Puna are still trapped by fallen trees?”


As of election day, HELCO estimated 3,800 Big Island residents were still without electricity, with most of the effected living in Puna. A day prior, 6,300 residents were without power.

Schatz, who is fighting to succeed the late Senator Daniel Inouye, will now face off against Republican Senate candidate Cam Cavasso in November.

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