New Hawaii, Montana Senate Developments

Hawaii Senate

Puna, Hawaii voters not able to cast their ballots in the Aug. 9 primary went to the polls on Friday to complete the statewide electoral process, but before secondary voting even began a surprising new discovery was made.  Some 800 votes from Maui were “found” by election officials during the last week, somehow left uncounted during the original tabulation process.  These votes, too, were added to the weekend count.

The voters eligible to participate Friday could only possible change one outcome, that of the tight Democratic US Senate nomination campaign between appointed Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1).  Going into the secondary voting, Schatz held a 1,635-vote lead.  At this point, the preliminary final count, including the newly added ballots, actually shows Schatz expanding his lead 134 votes to a spread of 1,769.

Does this mean the contest is finally decided?  Possibly, but it depends on how far Rep. Hanabusa wants to go in legally challenging the results.  The fact that election officials allowed the original counting to commence, knowing that not all eligible voters had the opportunity to participate, and then extended the voting period after the original results were made public may be cause for a Hanabusa complaint.  Her argument could be that voting behavior may have changed because the original results were already known, thus unfairly influencing the election and violating several federal election statutes.  Now that the additional Maui ballots have been discovered and added to the count, the situation becomes even more dicey.

It is very likely that Sen. Schatz will soon be certified the winner of this Democratic primary, but potential legal challenges from Hanabusa – the congresswoman’s camp says options are being considered – could extend the process indefinitely and cast doubt upon the final result.  It is likely we have not heard the last of this primary election.

Montana Senate

One hundred twenty-eight Montana state Democratic delegates convened on Saturday in Helena to choose a replacement nominee for appointed US Sen. John Walsh.  You will remember that the New York Times’ discovery that Walsh had plagiarized his War College thesis in 2007 forced his withdrawal from the race.

The new Democratic nominee is 34-year-old state Rep. Amanda Curtis, a one-term legislator from a partisan Dem district in Butte.  She defeated rancher Dirk Adams, 82-46, to claim the nomination and the opportunity to challenge Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL), the Republican Senatorial nominee, in the November general election.

Curtis is a mathematics teacher at Butte High School.  She won her state legislative seat in 2012, but is not seeking re-election because redistricting paired her in a seat with a veteran Democratic member.  The commission charged with drawing the lines delayed adopting a new state legislative plan, thus the new district boundaries will take effect in this election.  When the maps became public, and before passing the legislature and being signed into law, Curtis deferred to the veteran legislator and gracefully announced that she would retire.  Now, she is rewarded with the US Senate nomination but her task to make this race competitive is a daunting one.  

Curtis begins, now, with no money in her campaign bank account and is faced with constructing a major senatorial campaign from scratch with only 13 weeks remaining until the Nov. 4 election.  

Rep. Daines begins the contest against Curtis in a prohibitive favorite’s position.  It remains to be seen if the young outgoing state Representative can develop into a top tier candidate on the shortest of time schedules

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