Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s arrival on the Big Island on Wednesday to address the fallout from Tropical Storm Iselle added a layer of normalcy to what so far has been surreal political theater. Many roads in the rural Puna district on the east side of the island are still closed due to fallen trees and powerlines, and thousands of people are without basic necessities, such as food, ice and running water. The governor has broad executive power to mobilize resources and spend money to help recovery efforts in some of the hardest hit communities here, a few of which could be without power for several weeks. But Abercrombie has no control over a controversial decision to hold a special election here on Friday that will decide the Senate Democratic primary race between Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
“The last thing anybody wants in a democracy in the United States — and certainly in Hawaii — is for the executive branch to decide whether or not to hold elections,” Abercrombie said during brief press conference at a community center in Puna. “I might have wanted to postpone last Saturday myself if that were the case.”
Abercrombie lost the Aug. 9 Democratic primary in a landslide to Hawaii State Sen. David Ige. But it’s the race between Schatz and Hanabusa that has captivated politicos throughout the state and across the nation.