Waiting For Results Of Political Storm

I flew over to Hilo the Sunday before last. That morning Honolulu Star-Advertiser had published Hawaii Poll’s numbers on the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Rebecca Ward’s research showed David Ige, a little-known leeward state senator, enjoyed a jaw-dropping 18-point advantage over incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Her research found Ige ahead 61 percent to 30 on Oahu, behind 39 to 46 on the Neighbor Islands, and up 54 to 36 percent statewide. In an interview with Star-Advertiser‘s Derrick DePledge, Ward characterized Ige’s lead as “insurmountable.”

Abercrombie’s Neighbor Islands advantage was apparent in Hilo town. “Abercrombie for Governor” campaign signs decorated chain-link fences at nearly every intersection.

But historically Hilo’s population has been heavily Japanese American. Not so much in 2014, but AJAs still constitute a potent voting bloc. According to Ward’s numbers, statewide Ige leads 62-28 among Americans of Japanese ancestry.

Abercrombie enjoyed no such advantage among Caucasians; he and Ige split them, 49 percent for Abercrombie, 47 for Ige.

But put ethnic voting aside. Abercrombie’s problem is in the “reason voting for” question in the Hawaii Poll. Forty-six percent of those who favored Ige (let’s put that in numbers and say it again, 46 percent) said they just did not like the other candidate. A paltry 9 percent of the governor’s supporters said that about Ige.

On “leadership experience,” 40 percent of those who supported Abercrombie cited it as their reason to vote for him, only 11 percent of those who opted for Ige. That makes sense, given Ige’s quiet demeanor and his place as one among 76 in the Legislature throughout his career.

It also, however, helps to explain Abercrombie’s problem. He’s been around a long time — as a state legislator, congressman and governor — and given his anything-but-quiet demeanor, he’s been visible and heard. And that means he was going to anger more than a few over the years, particularly in times when the fiscal belt had to be tightened.

While in Hilo, the weather people began talking about hurricanes, tropical storms, lots of rain and plenty of wind. It all went by the affecting names of Iselle and Julio. My Hilo hostess worried because her house had been flooded in recent rains.

Electoral floods may well have swept Abercrombie away this past weekend. The final vote counts on election night (which, dear reader, you know as you read this, but I don’t as I write it), will tell the story.

From my vantage, what the winds and rain will do in the other statewide race is less clear. In the Democratic contest to succeed the late Sen. Dan Inouye, Ward’s research shows U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa preferred by 50 percent of those polled, appointed Sen. Brian Schatz by 42 percent, with 8 percent undecided.

Schatz, not surprisingly, led among Caucasian voters, Hanabusa not surprisingly among Japanese-American voters, just as they both had in the February Hawaii Poll.

In between February and the second Hawaii Poll in late July, nothing, according to Ward’s Research, changed: Hanabusa held her eight-point advantage; only the number undecided changed, dropping 4 percent — this despite an onslaught of television advertising by Schatz financed with a $5 million campaign war chest.

Why? Schatz supporters argue that it did, and that several other polls show their man with an eightto 10-point lead.

Perhaps they’re right. Perhaps not.

By the time you read this, dear reader, the winds will have abated and the skies will have cleared.

And we’ll know definitively who’s wet, who’s dry and who’s been swept away by the flood.