Storm holds up Hawaii's Democratic Senate primary and AP/ Eugene Tanner

Tropical Storm Iselle, which made landfall in Hawaii last Friday, has thrown a wrench into the state's Democratic Senate primary.

Damage from the storm prevented voters in two precincts on the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, from reaching the polls in the Saturday primary. Now, those voters will determine the election.

Sen. Brian Schatz leads Rep. Colleen Hanabusa by just 1,635 votes, according to the latest tally of results from the state. Just 12 percent of the 8,200 registered voters in the precincts cast advance ballots for the primary, meaning they will decide the election once votes are cast.

The residents who were able to vote will be given absentee ballots, according to local news outlets, but it is not yet clear how long they will have to cast them. State law says the election must conclude within 21 days.

Schatz and Hanbusa both headed to the island Sunday to campaign, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, where they will face the challenge of seeking votes while not seeming too callous toward the losses caused by the storm.

In December 2012, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed his lieutenant governor, Schatz, to fill the Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, a move that created a minor political firestorm in the Aloha State. The problem: Inouye, a political giant in Hawaii who had served as the state's senator since 1963, had written a letter to Abercrombie before his death asking that his successor be Hanabusa.

Abercrombie, for a variety of political reasons, wound up losing his re-election bid when state Sen. David Ige trounced him by 35 points in Saturday'sDemocratic primary.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for