PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — Incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz beat U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Hawaii late Friday, closing out a tight, emotional race that went into overtime after a tropical storm kept some voters from the polls.
Schatz extended his slim lead, gained in voting across the rest of the state, through a makeup election for more than 8,000 voters in two remote precincts that couldn't cast ballots during Saturday's primary because of blocked roads and power outages.
Hanabusa tried to delay the makeup election to give area residents more time to recover from the storm, but she lost a court challenge.
"I think we worked really hard and our message came through," Schatz said after declaring victory Friday. "We're just thrilled with the election results right now."
The race to fill the rest of Inouye's term divided the islands' Democrats, with some offended that Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie didn't follow the prescription of the state's grandfather of politics and others eager for a fresh set of leaders free from Hawaii's old guard.
Before his death in 2012, Inouye had asked Abercrombie to appoint Hanabusa. But Abercrombie appointed Schatz, who was his lieutenant governor at the time.
Abercrombie said Schatz, 41, would have a better chance at building seniority because he's younger than Hanabusa, 63. Schatz steered away from the sensitive age topic and instead emphasized his ability to build relationships. He was endorsed by President Barack Obama and had served on Obama's campaign in 2008.
For his part, Abercrombie, who was running for re-election, lost an even more stunning defeat last week as the first Hawaii governor to lose a primary re-election bid.
Hanabusa was outspent by Schatz by $1 million during the campaign, and his ads dominated the airwaves.
In the debates, Hanabusa showed a more aggressive side, portraying herself as a fighter from Oahu's tough Waianae Coast. Schatz, meanwhile, accused Hanabusa of threatening Social Security benefits because of her support of a bill amendment that ultimately failed.
Both candidates played up their ability to steer federal dollars to Hawaii, a trait Inouye was known for. While serving for 50 years in Congress, Inouye rose to become chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and secured up to $2 billion in federal dollars for the state. After he died many in Hawaii feared the state money would stop flowing and the state would fall off the "Inouye cliff."
Schatz is expected to cruise through the November general election in the heavily Democratic island state. Republican Cam Cavasso won the party's nomination last week.
Statewide, more than 4 in 5 voters pulled ballots to cast votes for Democrats. Voters do not register for one party or another in Hawaii.
Cathy Bussewitz can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cbussewitz
Associated Press Writers Oskar Garcia and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu and Karin Stanton and Marco Garcia in Pahoa contributed to this report.