United States Senate special election in Hawaii, 2014

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Special Elections to the 113th Session of Congress, 2013-2014

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Hawaii will hold a special election for the U.S. Senate in 2014. The primary election was held on August 9, 2014, with the general election scheduled for November 4, 2014.[1]

On December 26, 2012, Governor of Hawaii Neil Abercrombie (D) appointed his Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz to fill the seat's vacancy.[2]

The special election will be held to fill the vacancy left by the death of Senator Daniel Inouye (D).

On June 17, 2013, the Hawaii Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to close its primary to all except registered Democrats.[3] Currently, Hawaii does not ask voters to choose a party when they register to vote. This is the first time any state Democratic Party has ever filed a lawsuit to close an open primary.[4]

Following the primary elections on August 9, 2014, Hanabusa warned of voting “irregularities” in precincts crippled by a massive tropical storm and said she planned to speak with campaign lawyers about a potential ramifications.[5]

Although much of the focus of the too-close-to-call Democratic primary was on two precincts in the Big Island’s Puna District where polls were closed because of the storm, Hanabusa’s comments hinted at the impact in surrounding communities as well, where polls were open but some voters were unable to leave their homes.[5]

After an August 15, 2014, special election date was announced for two precincts that closed due to the extensive storm damage, Colleen Hanabusa filed a lawsuit aimed at postponing the election until after clean-up efforts can be completed and including voters outside the two precincts who were unable to safely make it to the polls.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag According to Hawaii law, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) was required to appoint someone to the open seat until the special election in 2014. The appointee had to be one of three names submitted by the state party of the incumbent. Inouye gave his preference for his successor in a letter to Abercrombie, in which Inouye listed Colleen Hanabusa as his pick to replace him in the U.S. Senate. Representative Hanabusa topped the list of early contenders.[6]

The looming fiscal cliff votes gave Abercrombie a very narrow window to appoint another Democrat to Inouye's seat.[7][8] On December 26, 2012, the governor tapped his Lieutenant Governor, Brian E. Schatz (D), to fill the vacancy, denying Inouye's deathbed request that Hanabusa should succeed him.[9] Abercrombie took considerable criticism after stating that he questioned the validity of the letter sent by Inouye on his deathbed.[10][11] He later issued an apology for his remarks.[12]

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced on April 23, 2013, that it planned to back U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in his bid for re-election next year amid a primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.[13] On May 7th, 2013, EMILY'S List endorsed Hanabusa over incumbent Brian Schatz.[14][15]

Current 1st District incumbent Colleen Hanabusa announced her decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat on May 2, 2013.[16][17]

On May 3, 2013, the widow of Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye endorsed Hanabusa’s bid against Sen. Brian Schatz (D), a move she said honors one of the late senator’s “last requests.”[18] In a statement Irene Hirano Inouye said, “Shortly after she was elected President of the Hawaii State Senate, Dan recognized that Colleen was more than capable of succeeding him and he began to mentor her. His last wish was that Colleen serve out his term because he was confident in her ability to step into the Senate and immediately help Hawaii. I am honoring one of his last requests, and look forward to supporting Colleen on the campaign trail.”[18]

Both candidates come to the race with their own strengths: Schatz, as an incumbent, starts off with the fundraising advantage and has inherited a team of national strategists and consultants to run his campaign.[19] Hanabusa, on the other hand, is better known within the state and is tapping into the network and political organization Inouye left behind.[19]

Primary to watch

The primary battle between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa was highlighted as one of the top five primaries to watch in 2014.[20]

Primary vulnerability

Schatz was named by National Journal as one of the top five incumbent senators at risk of losing his or her primary election. Four of the five most vulnerable senators were Republican.[21]


Age of Hanabusa

In a January 2, 2014, interview with The Washington Post, Gov. Abercrombie indicated that the reason he appointed Brian Schatz over Hanabusa was her age, and apparently thought the 60-something congresswoman was too old to build seniority in the Senate.[22]

"Brian Schatz is 41. Colleen isn't. She's in her 60s," Abercrombie said in the interview.[22]

Abercrombie went on to say, "It had very little to do with Brian and Colleen themselves as people. It had everything to do with the future and the past."[22]

Drug lobby donations

Colleen Hanabusa’s deputy chief of staff, Christopher Raymond, in an e-mail sent June 28, 2013, discussed that the nation’s top drug lobby had agreed to run a campaign supporting the congresswoman’s challenge to Sen. Brian Schatz and wanted to coordinate it with her strategists.[23] Such an effort could be in violation of campaign finance laws, which prohibit candidates and their staff from substantial discussions with interest groups about their independent political activities.[23]

Officials with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Hanabusa’s campaign denied that the group had offered to run such an effort but acknowledged talks about a possible fundraiser for Hanabusa and about the state of the race in general.[23]

Campaign officials blamed the e-mail on a misinformed staffer, saying, "He made inaccurate assumptions about the type of help PhRMA could provide the campaign,” according to campaign spokesman Peter Boylan.[23]

Matt Bennett, a spokesman for PhRMA, said officials there did not offer to do a campaign on Hanabusa’s behalf, but that the group had “preliminary” discussions about hosting an industry fundraiser for Hanabusa through its political action committee.[23] He also said that a PhRMA lobbyist had spoken with Jennifer Sabas, a top Hanabusa campaign adviser, but that they had talked only about the state of the Democratic primary campaign in Hawaii.

Boylan echoed that, saying Sabas did not provide PhRMA with any information “that would constitute coordination in violation of the law.”[23]

PhRMA wants to unseat incumbent Brian Schatz because he supports legislation that would require drug makers to reinstate prescription drug rebates for people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.[24][25] Hanabusa is opposed to the bill, and has signed a letter saying drug companies would pass on the cost of the rebate to consumers.[25]

Raymond, Hanabusa’s deputy chief of staff, resigned August 7, 2013, a day after a Federal Election Commission complaint was filed against him.[26][27]

“I have not violated any campaign finance laws, and it is unfortunate what a distraction this misunderstanding has become,” Raymond said in a statement. “Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is the most qualified person to serve as Hawaii’s next U.S. senator, and I have been honored and privileged to work for her.”[27]


U.S. Senate, Hawaii Democratic Primary
Poll Brian Schatz (Inc.) Colleen HanabusaUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Ward Research
July 21-29 2014
Civil Beat/Merriman
July 24-28, 2014
Public Policy Polling
July 23-24, 2014
Merriman River Group
May 18-19, 2014
Public Policy Polling
May 9-11, 2014
Merriman River Group
February 12-15, 2014
Ward Research
February 1-11, 2014
The Mellman Group
January 7-13, 2014
Civil Beat
October 9-10, 2013
The Mellman Group
June 26-30, 2013
Civil Beat
June 18-20 2013, June 24, 2013
EMILY’s List
June 10-11, 2013
AVERAGES 42.33% 39.33% 18.08% +/-2.88 703.58
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org


Democratic primary

Hawaii Senate Democratic Contested Primary
Endorsement/Contribution Brian Schatz Colleen Hanabusa
Irene Hirano Inouye
(Widow of Daniel Inouye)
May 3, 2013
EMILY'S List May 7, 2013
Hawaii Government Employees Association June 15, 2013
Former Vice President Al Gore July 21, 2013
Sierra Club of Hawaii September 1, 2013
Mayor Michael Bloomberg December 3, 2013
International Longshore Warehouse Union, Local 142 December 19, 2013
Hawaii State Teacher's Association December 23, 2013
President Barack Obama March 31, 2014
Elizabeth Warren July 2014
Former Governor of Hawaii John Waihee June 2014

Brian Schatz

  • In a statement on July 21, 2013, former Vice President Al Gore announced his endorsement for Schatz in the Democratic primary.[30] In the endorsement Gore stated, “Thanks to Brian’s visionary leadership, Hawaii implemented its own groundbreaking Clean Energy Initiative. As a result, Hawaii has tripled its renewable energy production from 6 percent to 18 percent. And we’re going to need Brian’s strong, outspoken leadership in Congress for many more years to get the job done.”
  • Sierra Club of Hawaii director Robert Harris, in a press release September 1, 2013, said, “Senator Schatz is exactly the kind of clean energy leader Hawaii and America need. His commitment to homegrown, clean energy is second-to-none. Based on his lengthy background in working to protect Hawaii’s environment, we are confident he is the best choice to protect Hawaii families’ health, air and water, and build a clean energy economy that works for our state.”[31]
  • Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, announced on December 3, 2013, that he planned to attend a reception for Schatz on January 2, 2014, in Honolulu.[32][33]
  • Democracy for America endorsed Schatz on February 18, 2014.[34]
  • The Progressive Change Campaign Committee endorsed Schatz on March 19, 2014.[35]

He received other endorsements from:[40][41]

  • The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers
  • Hawaii Firefighters Association
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Local 480
  • Hawaii Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Plumbers Local 675
  • Elevator Constructors Local 126
  • Drywall, Tapers and Finishers Local 1944
  • Glaziers Local 1889
  • Boilermakers Local 204
  • Painters and Allied Trades Local 1791
  • IBEW Local 1186
  • Heat and Frost Insulators Local 132
  • Teamsters Local 996
  • Roofers Local 221
  • Iron Workers Local 625
  • IBEW Local 1260
  • University of Hawaii Professional Assembly
  • League of Conservation Voters
  • Ocean Champions
  • The National Weather Service Employees Organization and the Council for a Livable World
  • The Communications Workers of America, District 9

Colleen Hanabusa

On May 3, 2013, the widow of Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye endorsed Hanabusa’s bid against Sen. Brian Schatz (D), a move she said honors one of the late senator’s “last requests.”[18] On May 7th, 2013 EMILY'S List endorsed Hanabusa over incumbent Brian Schatz.[42][43]

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 142, endorsed Hanabusa on December 19, 2013.[44][45]

“Throughout her career, Colleen Hanabusa has fought for organized labor and advocated on behalf of our members and their families. As an attorney, former Hawaii State Senate President, and two-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Colleen has always put the needs of hard working families first and taken strong positions against those seeking to reduce workers’ rights. She will continue her fight for us in the U.S. Senate and we are very proud to support the Waianae girl who will protect and preserve our Hawaii values,” said Donna Domingo, President, ILWU Local 142.[44]

On December 23, 2013, the Hawaii State Teacher’s Association endorsed Hanabusa.[46]

"Our members know Colleen, they respect her proven record of leadership on the issues that matter most to them. … We trust her to help us look after Hawaii’s children and prepare them to lead our community into the future," said HSTA President Wil Okabe.[46]


Colleen Hanabusa

Colleen Hanabusa's first ad, released in May 2014, "Obligation."

Colleen Hanabusa's second ad, released in June 2014, "Protecting our Kupuna."

Colleen Hanabusa's third ad, released in June 2014, "Real Issues."
  • Colleen Hanabusa released her first ad on May 23, 2014. The ad, a positive biographical ad, focused on her connections to the state and her middle-class roots.[47]
  • Hanabusa released her third ad on June 19, 2014. The ad emphasized her accomplishments, displayed as text on the screen. However, the amount of text in the ad was criticized as being information overload for viewers.[48]

Brian Schatz

Brian Schatz's first ad, released in March 2014, "Commitment."

Brian Schatz's second ad, released in April 2014, "Opportunity."

Brian Schatz's third ad, released in April 2014, "Two Reaons."
  • Brian Schatz released his first ad of the campaign on March 25, 2014, "Commitment."[49][50][51] The ad featured Schatz’s family, including his wife Linda’s parents, and highlighted his efforts on Social Security.[51] The ad began with Schatz saying, "More than 200,000 people in Hawaii receive Social Security benefits each year. They're the reason I've stood up to every attempt to cut Social Security."[50]
  • Schatz released his second ad on April 13, 2014, focused on pay disparity between men and women.[52]
    • The ad began with a photo of Schatz as a child on a Hawaii playground before it transitioned to him as an adult in a classroom full of smiling, multi-ethnic children. He then stated that, as a state and federal lawmaker, he has sponsored legislation to cut the gap between men and women’s pay, while the words “Paycheck Fairness Act” appeared on screen.[52]
  • Schatz's third ad, released on April 30, 2014, focused on gun control.[53] The ad, which featured quotes from President Barack Obama, focused on Schatz's record on gun control in the Senate and stated that his top two reasons for voting in favor of gun regulation are his two children.[53]
  • Schatz's fourth ad, released on June 27, 2014, emphasized his work on lowering student loan interest rates.[54]


The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched a television ad campaign supporting Brian Schatz in July 2014, ahead of the Democratic primary on August 9, 2014. The first ad, “Special,” highlighted his leadership on climate change and efforts to hold corporate polluters accountable.[55]

Senator Schatz is tirelessly leading the fight to halt the climate change that will devastate Hawaii and is fighting to and hold corporate polluters accountable by requiring them to slash their emissions. Hawaii needs his vision and leadership in the United States Senate,” said LCV Senior Vice President Daniel J. Weiss.[55]

Campaign donors

Candidates for Congress are required to file up to seven main reports with the Federal Election Commission during the 2014 elections season.

Cam Cavasso (2014) Campaign Finance Reports
ReportDate FiledBeginning BalanceTotal Contributions
for Reporting Period
ExpendituresCash on Hand
April Quarterly[68]April 15, 2013$0$7,700$(8,771)$5,320
July Quarterly[69]July 15, 2013$5,320$4,850$(9,718)$452
October Quarterly[70]October 23, 2013$452$11,670$(7,329)$4,793
Year End[71]January 31, 2014$4,793$10,605$(13,719)$1,678
April Quarterly[72]April 15, 2014$1,678$37,164$(35,694)$3,148
July Quarterly[73]July 15, 2014$3,148$79,888$(70,690)$12,346
October Quarterly[74]October 15, 2014$13,535$34,446$(42,312)$5,669
Running totals

April 2013

According to reports in April 2013, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) had already raised $230,000 and had $248,000 cash-on-hand and incumbent Brian Schatz (D) raised $1.1 million and had $1 million cash-on-hand.[75][76] As of financial reports from July 2013, Hanabusa raised $500,000 in six weeks of fundraising since she officially announced her candidacy in May 2013.[77] She also had $248,600 in her House account at the end of the first quarter that she can use for her Senate campaign.[77]

Incumbent Brian Schatz raised $911,000 during the second quarter of 2013, according to his campaign, and had more than $2 million overall as of July 12, 2013.[77]

Inouye family

According to reports, Inouye’s widow, Irene Hirano Inouye, wants Schatz out of the seat occupied for nearly 50 years by her late husband, and has announced her support in a fundraising drive for Schatz’s primary election opponent, Colleen Hanabusa in August 2013.[78]

“As Senator, Dan worked hard to create a better future for Hawaii. He did so with dignity, humility, and most importantly, a deep love and respect for Hawaii's people and values,” Irene Hirano Inouye wrote in a fundraising email on August 13, 2013.[78] “I am supporting Colleen for Senate because she displays those same qualities and understands how to deliver for Hawaii,” she added.[78] She also argued that the Senate, which is 80 percent male, needs more women in its ranked.[78]Colleen's candidacy presents the best opportunity to elect another well-qualified woman to represent us all,” Inouye wrote.[78]

Relations between Schatz and Inouye’s camp have been tense since Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) defied Inouye’s dying wish that Hanabusa should be appointed his successor.[78]

Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's former chief of staff, issued a statement at the time expressing disappointment with [Brain Schatz|Schatz’s]] appointment.[78] "Sen. Inouye conveyed his final wish to Gov. Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the governor's decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck," it stated.[78]

District history

Candidate ballot access
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Hirono won election to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Primary elections were held on August 11, 2012.[79] Hirono defeated Linda Lingle (R), James Brewer, Jr. (G), Heath Beasley (I) and Paul Manner in the general election on November 6, 2012.[80]

U.S. Senate, Hawaii General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMazie Hirono 61.7% 269,489
     Republican Linda Lingle 36.8% 160,994
     N/A Blank Votes 1.5% 6,599
Total Votes 437,082
Source: Hawaii Office of Elections "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"


On November 2, 2010, Inouye won re-election to the United States Senate. He defeated Cam Cavasso (R), Jim Brewer (G), Lloyd Jeffrey Mallan (L) and Jeff Jarrett (I) in the general election.[81]

U.S. Senate, Hawaii General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngDaniel K. Inoyue Incumbent 74.8% 277,228
     Republican Cam Cavasso 21.6% 79,939
     Green Jim Brewer 2.1% 7,762
     Libertarian Lloyd Jeffrey Mallan 0.8% 2,957
     Independent Jeff Jarrett 0.7% 2,697
Total Votes 370,583

See also

External links


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  3. Hawaii Democrats, " News Release: Primary Election Challenge" accessed June 19, 2013
  4. Ballot Access.org, "Hawaii Democratic Party Sues To Keep Outsiders from Voting in its Primaries" accessed June 19, 2013
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  7. CBS news, "Inouye replaceent to be named Wednesday," December 24, 2012
  8. Civil Beat, "Inouye's Last Wish Is Abercrombie's Biggest Burden," December 24, 2012
  9. The Washington Post, "Hawaii governor picks Brian Schatz for Inouye’s seat," December 26, 2012
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  12. The Hill, "Governor questions Inouye's 'dying wish'," accessed May 6, 2014
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  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 Washington Post, "Congressional aide’s e-mail shows overture from drug lobby" accessed July 30, 2013
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  53. 53.0 53.1 Real Clear Politics, "Brian Schatz Ad On Gun Control Quotes President Obama," accessed May 5, 2014
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  81. U.S. Congress House Clerk, "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 2010"