Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono easily defeated former Rep. Ed Case in Hawaii's Democratic Senate primary Saturday and will face Republican former Gov. Linda Lingle in the general election.
With all precincts reporting, Hirono won 57 percent of the vote to Case's 40 percent, the Washington Post reported. Hirono was backed by both the state and national Democratic establishments and outraised Case handily, but some late polling had suggested Saturday's vote might be close.
Lingle, who served as governor for two terms, breezed through the Republican primary with 90 percent of the vote over nominal competition. A top recruit of national Republicans, she has fundraising ability and high name recognition to competes for the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who at age 86 is retiring after 22 years in the Senate.
Hawaii has never voted out a sitting U.S. senator, so the retirement of Akaka creates a rare political vacuum in the state that Lingle and the GOP are hoping to exploit. The last time Republicans won a U.S. Senate contest was in 1970, when then-Sen. Hiram Fong won reelection.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, on Saturday ordered that voting on the Big Island of Hawaii be allowed to continue for an hour and a half past the original closing time of 6 p.m., because he said a number of polling stations on that island had opened later than scheduled, Reuters reported. In a proclamation, Abercrombie blamed "unforeseen" problems, including late delivery of supplies to polling places.
Lingle, who served as governor of Hawaii from 2002 to 2010, has raised more than $4.4 million compared to Hirono's $3.4 million and Case's $819,000, according to figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Sixty-five percent of Lingle's donations, a total of nearly $2.2 million, come from outside Hawaii, the group said.
"The GOP thinks she has a chance, and this election has national implications because of the narrow margin of party control in the Senate," said analyst Neil Milner, a retired University of Hawaii political science professor.
Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono easily defeated former congressman Ed Case in Hawaii's Democratic Senate primary on Saturday. Hirono will face former Republican Governor Linda Lingle in the general election.
Hawaii residents can tune in from home to a constant reminder of Lingle's successful fundraising. The candidate has taken the unusual step of securing her own cable station in the state, sandwiched between the CNN and Fox channels. It runs around-the-clock information on Lingle and her campaign.
Polls show Lingle running behind either Hirono or Case, the two Democrats, in a hypothetical match-up. A Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll conducted in July by Ward Research showed Hirono leading Lingle by 58 percent to 39 percent and Case ahead by 56 percent to 38 percent.
But observers note Lingle beat Hirono in the 2002 race for governor, after Hirono defeated Case in that year's Democratic primary to seek the state's top office.
"Because Lingle has already defeated Hirono in a head-to-head match-up, many observers see a Hirono victory today as a Lingle victory in November," said University of Hawaii Law Professor Randy Roth.
Polls showing Lingle trailing the two Democrats in a hypothetical match-up were similar at the same point in the 2002 race for governor, which Lingle ultimately won, Roth said.