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Bitter Hawaii Democratic fight finally ends, 11 days after voting

The country’s only contested Democratic Senate primary is finally over, ending a caustic struggle that split a party.
Brian Schatz
US Sen. Brian Schatz is greeted by supporters as he enters his campaign headquarters on Aug. 9, 2014 in Honolulu.

The country’s only contested Democratic Senate primary is finally over, ending a caustic struggle that split a party otherwise marked by national unity.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced late Tuesday night that she will not contest the results of the election, which had been bookended by two hurricanes and haunted by the ghost of the man who used to occupy the seat being fought over.

Election Day was 11 days ago, but because of storm damage, balloting was delayed until Friday in two precincts. Hanabusa, trailing appointed incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz by fewer than 1,700 votes, protested the make-up voting plan and filed a lawsuit to delay the polling. But a judge allowed the plan to proceed, and Schatz emerged with an lead of 1,769 votes.

After weighing her options, Hanabusa said Tuesday  that she will let the vote stand -- in court, at least. After thanking her staff and volunteers for their hard work, the congresswoman acknowledged that she’s not happy with the results.

"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,” she said in a statement. 

She added: “I can move on from this election knowing I listened to the people and fought hard for the right to represent them, honorably."

In state where politicians regularly wear leis and pepper political messages with “alohas” and “mahalos,” the race got unusually tense and personal. 

The late Sen. Daniel Inouye, one of Hawaii’s most prominent political figures of all time, had wanted Hanabusa to take his seat when he passed, and he made the wish clear in a death-bed letter to the governor. But Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who lost his own primary election by unusually large margins last weekend, chose his lieutenant governor, Schatz, instead.

"This election has been extraordinary from beginning to end,” Schatz said in a statement after Hanabusa announced her decision. "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.”