Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz prevails in tough primary fight

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, celebrates with supporters after defeating fellow Democrat Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to retain his senate seat, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 in Hilo, Hawaii.

AP Photo/Marco Garcia

After a contentious election colored by the dying wish of a political icon and complicated by a tropical storm just before election day, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, has prevailed in a primary fight against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, earning the Democratic nod for the U.S. Senate and likely clearing the way to his first full term in the upper chamber.

Much of the state held primary elections last Saturday, but voters in a pair of rural precincts on Hawaii's Big Island were unable to vote because of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle, which struck the state just days before voters headed for the polls.

The results on election night put Schatz barely ahead of Hanabusa, but the margin was slim enough to make the race too close to call. On Friday, voters in the remaining two precincts headed for the polls to finish the election. After the results were tabulated, Schatz held onto his narrow lead, earning 48.5 percent to Hanabusa's 47.8 percent.

"This was obviously an extremely hard-fought race. But we're gratified that the voters heard our message and recognized that I've been working hard for the people of Hawaii," Schatz told The Associated Press in an interview on Friday night.

Hanabusa petitioned for the election to be delayed longer to allow more time for recovery from the storm, but her challenge was turned down by the courts.

In her own talk with reporters on Friday, Hanabusa thanked her supporters and Hawaii's voters. "That is one of the most humbling and phenomenal things about elections, it's the relationships that we make, the relationships that we earn," she said, according to the AP.

Schatz was appointed to the seat in 2012 after longtime Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye passed away. Inouye, a revered figure in the state, urged Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, to appoint Hanabusa as his replacement, but the governor ultimately decided on Schatz, who was at the time Hawaii's lieutenant governor.

Hanabusa campaigned as Inouye's heir-apparent, but ultimately it was not enough to put her over the top.

Abercrombie lost his own re-election bid last Saturday when he was defeated in a primary battle by state Sen. David Ige.