Once a political dead man walking, governor eyes a Democratic primary upset

CORRECTS TITLE TO DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR NOT GOV. ELECT Democratic nominee for governor David Ige, left, US Rep Colleen Hanabusa, center and Hawaii Lt. Governor elect Shan Tsutsui, attend the Democratic Unity Breakfast, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 in Honolulu. The breakfast is traditionally held after Hawaii elections and is attended by both winners as well as losers. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Hawaii Gov. David Ige (left) with primary foe Rep. Colleen Hanabusa

Hawaii goes to the polls Saturday for its party primaries, and we have two big Democratic contests to watch. Gov. David Ige is locked in a competitive race with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, while a number of Democrats are competing for Hanabusa’s open congressional district.

Polls close at 6 PM local time on Saturday, which is midnight eastern standard time. The first wave of results (known as printouts) usually come in an hour after polls closed, with additional waves coming hourly. We won’t be liveblogging this one, but we’ll be posting an open thread at Daily Kos Elections for anyone who wants to discuss the results as they come in.

HI-Gov (D): A few months ago, Gov. David Ige looked like he was facing a near-certain defeat against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary, but things have changed quite a bit. A Mason-Dixon poll found Ige going from a huge 47-27 deficit in March to a 44-40 lead in mid-July, while Merriman River Group found him going from a 37-31 loss in May to a 43-34 advantage at the end of July. Whomever emerges with the Democratic nomination will be the heavy favorite in the general election.

While Ige won his own 2014 primary by unseating incumbent Neil Abercrombie in a 67-31 landslide, he seemed like the underdog for most of this campaign. Most of Ige’s support four years ago came from powerful people and groups that Abercrombie had alienated, and they had little loyalty to Ige himself. This time, much of the state Democratic establishment backed their longtime ally Hanabusa over Ige, who had struggled to secure any major accomplishments. The governor hit a low point in January when a false ballistic missile alert went out and Ige explained that one of the reasons it took him so long to inform the public the warning was in error was because he had forgotten his Twitter password.

However, despite the governor’s problems, he still had some prominent allies in his corner, including the influential Hawaii State Teachers Association. Hanabusa’s duties in Congress also kept her thousands of miles away from the state for much of the campaign, a problem Ige did not have. The ongoing Kilauea volcano eruption also gave Ige the chance to demonstrate the type of leadership that Hanabusa said the state badly lacked, and he’s run ads highlighting his response to the crisis.

However, Hanabusa and her allies are still hoping the January missile warning debacle will be Ige’s undoing. Groups funded by the Hawaii Council of Carpenters and prominent and controversial contractor Dennis Mitsunaga have spent heavily on commercials faulting Ige over the crisis or praising the congresswoman. While Ige and Hanabusa have spent a similar amount of money on ads, outside spending has very much favored Hanabusa.

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