HONOLULU – U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said Tuesday, Aug. 19, she won’t challenge the state’s election results that showed her Democratic opponent, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, beat her by 1,769 votes, or 115,401 votes to her 113,632.
“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. 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,” Hanabusa said.
Schatz was declared the winner by less than 1 percent of the vote after a special election was held Friday, Aug. 15. The primary election would have wrapped up Aug. 9, but voting was delayed in two districts on Hawaii Island after Tropical Storm Iselle hit the island, knocking out power to 8,100 people and disrupting water service.
At the end of the Aug. 9 vote, Schatz led Hanabusa by just 1,635 votes, but 6,800 of Puna’s 8,000 registered voters had not cast ballots, so the race was too close to call.
The Office of Elections initially said it would delay the special election for two to three weeks (state law allows up to 21 days), so voters could dig their way out of the storm. But officials then decided to push ahead with the election on Friday, Hawaii’s Statehood Day.
Hanabusa asked Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago not to rush the election, and noted the damage from this natural disaster wasn’t isolated to the two precincts in House District 4 that were closed Aug. 9. She said some voters in the other two precincts couldn’t reach the polls.
“With blocked roads, widespread damage, and limited means of communication, there is no practical manner to ensure that all residents will receive adequate notice of the announced election…or be able to access the precincts on that day,” Hanabusa wrote. “I ask that you not rush for the sake of convenience.
When Nago didn’t respond favorably, Hanabusa filed a lawsuit in Hawaii Island’s Third District Court on Wednesday requesting a temporary restraining order against the Office of Elections. After an emergency hearing, the Hawaii Island judge denied Hanabusa’s motion and the special election was held.
Adding to the election drama, elections officials admitted Aug. 15 they discovered 800 ballots on the island of Maui that had not been counted in the Aug. 9 primary, which they added to Friday’s special election count.
“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. 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. 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,” Hanabusa said.
Schatz, in response to Hanabusa’s announcement that she will not challenge the results of the primary election, congratulated Hanabusa “on waging a spirited and tough battle.”
“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. … Now it is time for us to unite as we move forward to the general election.”
Schatz thanked the voters for placing their trust and confidence in him.
“I will never lose sight of the fact that I am only able to do my work representing the people of Hawaii because of the voters’ support,” Schatz said.