As all eyes turn today to Big Island voters in the storm-ravaged Puna region to settle the hotly contested U.S. Senate race between Colleen Hanabusa and Brian Schatz, Maui County Democrats gave Hanabusa a slight edge of 155 votes out of nearly 22,000 cast six days ago.
Overall, Hanabusa won 21 of Maui County's 34 precincts, leaving Schatz with 13. Hanabusa took 50.4 percent of votes on Maui, Molokai and Lanai - 11,039 to 10,884. But statewide, she trails Schatz by about 1,600 votes.
To make up that deficit and win with Puna's more than 8,000, storm-delayed votes, Hanabusa will need to take more than 60 percent of the vote there.
In Puna, Hanabusa must repeat her Maui wins in diehard Democratic bastions like Kahului, Wailuku, Molokai and Lanai. Instead, today on the Big Island, she's more likely to see voters like those in Haiku and Paia, who favored Schatz.
A precinct-by-precinct analysis of Democratic votes in Maui County shows that Central Maui, Hana, Molokai and Lanai voters favored Hanabusa, while Schatz showed strength in South Maui and in pockets of West Maui, Upcountry, Paia and Haiku.
Hanabusa carried the voter-rich Central Maui House Districts 8 (by 55.5 percent) and 9 (by 59.5 percent), sweeping all 11 precincts. Her biggest wins in terms of raw numbers and percentages came from Central Maui mail-in voters - a 147-vote win, with 66.8 percent, from mail-in voters living near Maui High School; a 131-vote win, with 54.4 percent, from Kahului Elementary School voters; a 121-vote win, with 58.1 percent, from Maui Waena Intermediate School voters; a 116-vote win, with 54.6 percent, from Iao Intermediate School voters; and an 89-vote win, with 60.1 percent, from Lihikai Elementary School voters.
Schatz-Hanabusa: The Maui Vote
Shown are the vote totals for Colleen Hanabusa and Brian Schatz at Maui County's 34 polling places in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Daniel Inouye. They do not include blank ballots or votes for Democrat Brian Evans, who took 2 percent of the primary vote in Maui County. The votes are broken down by six state House districts. The Maui County total also is included.
House District 8
(Wailuku, Waiehu, Waihee, Waikapu, Puuohala, Kahakuloa)
Hanabusa: 2,625, 55.5 percent
Schatz: 2,104, 44.5 percent
House District 9
(Kahului, Puunene, Maui Lani, Old Sand Hills)
Hanabusa: 2,243, 59.5 percent
Schatz: 1,528, 40.5 percent
House District 10
(West Maui, Maalaea, north Kihei)
Hanabusa: 964, 46.3 percent
Schatz: 1,119, 53.7 percent
House District 11
(Kihei, Wailea, Makena)
Hanabusa: 1,006, 38 percent
Schatz: 1,641, 62 percent
House District 12
(Spreckelsville, Pukalani, Makawao, Kula, Keokea,
Ulupalakua, portion of Kahului)
Hanabusa: 2,320, 47.8 percent
Schatz: 2,533, 52.2 percent
House District 13
(Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Paia, Molokai, Lanai)
Hanabusa: 1,881, 49 percent
Schatz: 1,959, 51 percent
Maui County Total (Votes: 21,923)
Hanabusa: 11,039, 50.4 percent
Schatz: 10,884, 49.6 percent
Hanabusa won by 102 votes, or 57.6 percent, among Pukalani voters (also by mail) at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center.
House Speaker Joe Souki of Wailuku, who first captured his seat in 1982, said that the Central Maui districts are "probably the most local" areas in Maui County, with heavy concentrations of people of Japanese and Filipino descent.
"Ethnic votes," especially among Japanese-Americans, were key in the election, Souki said, adding that that lent support to candidates, including Hanabusa, Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Ige and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who hails from Maui. Ige and Tsutsui prevailed in Maui County by 53.8 percent and 68 percent, respectively.
The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, whose former seat is at stake, "meant a lot" to voters in the Central Maui districts, Souki said. And, the vote reflected the remaining influence of the senator, even after his death.
"Otherwise, Schatz with all his money would be way ahead," Souki said.
Schatz won all four of the South Maui precincts in House District 11 (a north Kihei precinct in House District 10 also went to Schatz).
At Kamalii Elementary School in Kihei, Schatz won the vote among those casting ballots on election day by 155 ballots, or 65.6 percent, and the mail-in vote by 140 ballots, or 64.2 percent. Schatz took the polling vote at the Kula Community Center by 129 ballots, or 58.3 percent. And, he took the polling vote at the Lahaina Civic Center by 112 votes, or 59.7 percent.
Schatz claimed his biggest vote win at the Haiku Community Center, where he won by 311 votes, 68.1 percent, among those showing up to vote on primary election day and by 101 votes, 56.3 percent, among Haiku voters casting ballots by mail. At the Paia Community Center, he won the combined poll, walk-in and mail-in votes by 29 ballots, or 54 percent.
Souki, the longest-serving Maui County state lawmaker, said that he sees Maui's Haiku-Paia region as being similar, demographically, to Puna. Much like Paia, the Puna area has seen a recent influx of Caucasians living in the area, he said, adding that he believes that will benefit Schatz.
"I don't expect Schatz to lose in Puna," he said.
Paia resident and former Maui County Democratic Party Chairman Lance Holter agreed that Puna would likely vote in favor of Schatz, but he downplayed Souki's emphasis of voter ethnicity. Holter, who acknowledged that he supports Schatz, said Haiku-Paia voters are "definitely progressive, well-educated voters."
Issues important to them include college student debt and climate change, both of which have been emphasized by Schatz during the campaign, Holter said.
Schatz's supporters come from a "broad range of ethnic diversity," he said.
"Brian represents the 40-year-olds and the young," Holter said, although he agreed that Hanabusa "obviously" has strong support among Japanese-American voters.
Holter said he's familiar with the Big Island's Puna district, which doesn't deserve a reputation as a "hippie" region. People in Puna, just as those in Paia and Haiku, are "outdoorsy and athletic," he said. Puna is a gateway area to outdoor activities associated with the Big Island's Volcanoes National Park.
Many Puna residents are "living back to the land" and are "conservation minded," Holter said.
He predicted that Schatz would get at least 55 percent of the Puna vote.
Although Molokai's Kalaupapa settlement is technically not part of Maui County, its voters favored Hanabusa 8 to 7.
Details on precinct votes can be found at hawaii.gov/elections/results/2014/primary and by clicking on "statewide precinct detail."
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.