Hawaiians in two precincts hit hard by Tropical Storm Iselle will get another chance to vote on Friday. In the meantime, both Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and her opponent, incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz, have moved their home bases to the rural districts to build up good will.
According to Hawaii Civil Beat, Schatz was seen passing out water bottles to those left without electricity in Puna. While he didn't talk to the media he did pose for photos. Hanabusa was also seen, though her press team wouldn't say where she was. Both were likely trying to avoid being seem as cynical vote hunters. A Schatz aide told Politico that the senator hadn't campaigned in Puna, but “his main priority is seeing how he can be most helpful. The humanitarian situation is taking precedence right now.”
At the same time, the Hanabusa campaign has been critical of the idea that Puna residents will be able to vote on Friday. Her spokesman Peter Boylan told Civil Beat that it's "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."
Hanabusa's campaign has gone so far as to suggest that the Office of Elections should examine whether people in other precincts had proper voting access. “There are irregularities that have occurred in terms of just access, and I’m hoping that the Office of Elections will look at it,” Hanabusa told Politico Monday. "We’ve got a lot of people coming up to us saying, ‘We couldn’t get out to vote but they didn’t close us down."
The race between Schatz and Hanabusa is too close to call — with Schatz up by 1,635 votes — and also propelled by a dramatic backstory. Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz after beloved Sen. Daniel Inouye died, despite Inouye's wish that Hanabusa replace him. And yet, things aren't looking good for Hanabusa. The Washington Post has a good explainer on why she probably won't win based on the 7,000 available votes in the two precincts voting Friday — basically, she would have to beat Schatz by a much larger margin that she did in any other district, in an area where he's more popular.