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  • Who Doesn’t Love a Good Tsunami Warning System?

    · By Patti Epler

    Congress is poised to approve a measure that would bolster tsunami warning efforts in Hawaii, including beefing up technology and expanding research into historic mega-quakes that caused giant tidal waves to leave their marks on coastal areas centuries ago.

    The Tsunami Warning Education and Research Act died in the U.S. House last year but has been resurrected and passed that chamber in January. It’s now in a key Senate committee and looks to be something that a polarized Congress can actually agree on this year, Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says.

    “It’s not going to make it on to anyone’s TV commercial but it’s what you expect the government to be doing all along,” Schatz said last week during a meeting with the Civil Beat Editorial Board.

    “Over the long run it will help us be better prepared,” he said, “and it may result in more resources coming to Hawaii.”

    A tsunami warning sign in Kona.

    Chad Blair/Civil Beat

    The measure would put in place programs needed to take tsunami warning efforts past simply identifying tsunami impact areas and drawing up of evacuation zones and response plans. That includes more education and training for coastal communities as well as research into tsunami threats posed by earthquakes in the Aleutian Islands and enhancing early-warning systems by upgrading tsunami buoys and even deploying sensors on trans-Pacific undersea cables deep on the ocean floor.

    But the $27 million envisioned to fuel the effort annually would still

  • Schatz: Protecting Federal Money for Rail a Top Priority

    · By Nick Grube

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz wants Honolulu’s 20-mile commuter rail line to get built, but he says it will be up to local officials to find a way to pay for it.

    The $6 billion project has a projected shortfall of up to $910 million, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has been asking state lawmakers to increase taxes to bridge the gap. There’s worry that construction could come to a stop by this summer if new money isn’t found.

    Schatz, who met with Civil Beat’s editorial board Tuesday, said he has talked with Caldwell and others at length about the project’s struggles.

    While Caldwell wants the state to make permanent the half-percent general excise tax surcharge that has been funding the project since 2007, Schatz says his role is to protect the $1.5 billion in grant money the Federal Transit Administration awarded the city to build the project.

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz wants rail to succeed, but he says it’s up to local leaders to make that happen.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    “I don’t think there’s necessarily more money where that came from in terms of the FTA, but I’m trying to work very closely with the state and county officials to try to make sure that that portion of the revenue remains secure,” Schatz said. “It’s just important to be vigilant when you’re talking about that much money coming in that’s being relied upon. But all indications continue to be positive from the FTA and U.S. (Department of Transportation).”

    He added that sequestration

  • Hawaii U.S. Senate: Incumbent Brian Schatz Wins 2 More Years

    · By Nick Grube

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz handily defeated Republican challenger Cam Cavasso in Tuesday’s general election.

    Schatz was far ahead of Cavasso, 67 percent to 26 percent. Libertarian Michael Kokoski trailed with 2 percent.

    National media had declared Schatz the winner even before the early numbers came out. However, come January, Schatz will be a member of the minority party, as Republicans took control of the Senate on Tuesday.

    With his family standing on the stage with him at the Democratic Party campaign headquarters in Moiliili, Schatz told supporters, “It’s an honor to serve as your United States senator and to be part of your congressional team.”

    U.S. Sen Brian Schatz speaks at the Democratic celebration held at the Japanese Cultural Center on Tuesday night.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    Now In the Minority

    Asked what a Republican takeover of Congress would mean for Hawaii, Schatz told Civil Beat that his focus over the next two years would be on appropriations.

    “That’s where Republicans and Democrats have been able to work together over the past four or five years, in spite of our differences,” he said. “That means funding for defense, transportation and even national parks.”

    Schatz said that even before it was clear the Senate would fall to the GOP, he was already reaching out to his counterparts. He said he works well with new majority leader Mitch McConnell, and he expressed optimism that the chamber would be able to act in the best interests of the country.

    “We have got to govern responsibly,”

  • Schatz Helps Fellow Dems as Republican Underdog Tries to Unseat Him

    · By Nathan Eagle

    In the past two months, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has given more campaign cash away to help fellow Democrats seeking office than former state Rep. Cam Cavasso — the Republican trying to unseat him Tuesday — has raised in the entire race.

    Schatz spent $4 million during his grueling battle to defeat U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the August primary, a contest decided by fewer than 1,800 votes. 

    But since then he’s taken advantage of his huge financial advantage and double-digit lead in the polls to support candidates facing tougher battles on the mainland and in Hawaii.

    Republican Cam Cavasso, left, is running against Democrat Brian Schatz for the U.S. Senate.

    Civil Beat composite

    He gave $200,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Sept. 12 and $30,000 to the Democratic Party of Hawaii on Oct. 2, according to filings this month with the Federal Election Commission. The committee serves as the official party group working to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate, which could shift to a Republican majority this election.

    “We want to make sure the Senate stays in Democratic hands,” Schatz said Wednesday, adding that he recently wired another $25,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as a way of doing his part.

    Schatz had $555,000 cash on hand as of Oct. 15 and donations have continued to pour into his campaign. He’s raised over $5.48 million this election, including almost $100,000 in the first two weeks of October.

    Plenty of Money From PACS, Individuals

    One

  • Hanabusa Won’t Challenge US Senate Election Results

    · By Chad Blair

    U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will not challenge her narrow loss to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in court.

    She conceded the election to Schatz late Tuesday.

    But the congresswoman said she is still concerned about the state’s decision to delay the primary election for one week in two storm-damaged precincts on the Big Island.

    Schatz defeated Hanabusa by just 1,769 votes in an election that saw more than 230,000 votes cast.

    Last week, a Circuit Court judge in Hilo rejected Hanabusa’s request that the second primary, held Aug. 15, be delayed until more power was restored and more roads were cleared in Puna.

    Rep. Colleen Hanabusa works the phone during a break at a food distribution center at the Makuu Farmers Market in the Puna District of Hawaii Island.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    The rural area suffered significant damage from Tropical Storm Iselle the day before the Aug. 9 primary.

    Hanabusa also said many Puna voters were unaware that the primary had been rescheduled in Precincts 04-01 and 04-02.

    “Though I will not be challenging the results of this election, I remain very concerned about the public’s confidence and trust in our election process,” Hanabusa said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “I ask former colleagues and friends in the Hawaii State Legislature to explore what is necessary to ensure the people that their vote truly counts.”

    Hanabusa continued: “I heard from many who feel strongly that they were disenfranchised from the voting process this election and I stand ready to support any collaborative effort to have those voices heard.”

    Schatz had this response to

  • Schatz: I’m Not Ready to Leave Puna Behind

    · By Nick Grube

    PUNA, HAWAII — Prior to Tropical Storm Iselle, the most time U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz had spent in the Big Island’s Puna district was while hiking in Volcano National Park.

    Even then he barely set foot in the rural communities surrounding Pahoa that today are still recovering from the devastation caused by 65 mile per hour winds, torrential rain and coastal flooding.

    But a tight race with U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa made Schatz get acquainted with the area in ways he might not have had Iselle never made landfall.

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says he doesn’t want to forget the people of Puna when he goes back to Washington D.C.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Now that the senator has secured his seat for at least another two years, he says he never wants to forget the lasting friendships he made while campaigning and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need.

    “It’s going to take awhile for the people of the community to recover,” Schatz said as he held up a shaka for passing cars on Friday, Puna’s Election Day. “We’ve made a commitment beyond this election and these election results.”

    The U.S. Senate race came down to voters in the Puna district, many of whom were unable to vote on Aug. 9 when election officials close polling places after Iselle knocked out power and blocked roadways.

    While Schatz left the Big Island on Friday night after learning he beat Hanabusa, he told Civil Beat he planned to come back next week to continue

  • Hawaii Primary: Schatz Hangs On To Win US Senate Race

    · By Nick Grube

    Incumbent Brian Schatz clinched the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate as the Hawaii Elections Office released results of Friday’s late voting in storm-damaged Puna, plus 800 previously uncounted Maui ballots.

    Schatz picked up 1,601 votes in results announced Friday, while U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa got 1,467. That gave him 48.5 percent of the vote to Hanabusa’s 47.8 percent. The total vote count as of Friday evening was 115,401 for Schatz to 113,632 for Hanabusa — a difference of just 1,769 votes.

    “This has been an extraordinary week for all of us,” Schatz said as he greeted supporters after the results were announced. “This is an extraordinary night.”

    A victorious Sen. Brian Schatz walks into the Hawaii Government Employees Association building in Hilo after hearing he won his primary race against Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Schatz thanked his supporters and also was effusive in his praise of people from all over the state who pitched in to help the storm victims in Puna and “to help our community recover.”

    Hanabusa, speaking with her supporters after the results came in, said she had not yet considered her political future.

    “I’m still a member of Congress, I still have my term to fill out,” she said.

    Hanabusa lamented that many voters never got the chance to go to the polls due to the storm, including many in precincts where the election was held Aug. 9.

    And on Friday, only voters

  • Will Hanabusa’s Push in Puna Be Enough?

    · By Nick Grube

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz embraced U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Saturday night and told her he was replaying the events of a colleague’s life.

    “I feel like Al Franken,” he said.

    Franken is Minnesota’s junior senator, who in 2008 was locked in a tight race with Republican Norm Coleman. They were separated by only a handful of votes, and it took nearly nine months and a lawsuit to settle who won.

    Schatz finds himself in a similarly close race.

    Colleen Hanabusa and Brian Schatz hug at the Democratic Party Unity Breakfast the morning after the primary.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    He leads U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa by 1,635 votes and there are two precincts on the Big Island where registered voters have yet to cast all their ballots. Tropical Storm Iselle caused state elections officials to shut down polling stations in those precincts.

    While Schatz has significantly more padding than Franken — who ultimately won by 312 votes — there’s some potential narrowing on the way.

    There are about 8,200 registered voters in the Puna district on the Big Island where voting has been extended.

    Voters who did not already cast absentee ballots or participate in early walk-in voting will be able to vote by mail possibly as soon as this week.

    Both Schatz and Hanabusa plan to be on the ground to capture as many of these votes as possible.

    That means lots of door knocking and maybe even some sign waving.

    “The one thing I learned about this race is that the neighbor islands always feel that we

  • Hawaii US Senate: Schatz Leads Hanabusa — Slightly

    · By Nick Grube

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz was leading U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa early Sunday morning in the Democratic primary race to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. Hanabusa started off the evening with a slight lead but the results flipped as the night wore on.

    The latest election results released Sunday morning had Schatz with 48.5 percent of the vote and Hanabusa with 47.8 percent, as of 3:25 a.m. Sunday.

    Just 1,635 votes separate the two.

    When news broke of the swing in Schatz’s favor his campaign headquarters erupted in cheers.

    But no one was declaring victory. Some votes were still not counted, including two districts in Puna where the election was postponed due to Tropical Storm Iselle.

    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz talks to his supporters after learning he held a small lead over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

    Nick Grube/Civil Beat

    Hanabusa spoke to a crowd of about 200 people who were gathered at her election party at The Hall of Laborers’ Local 368 in Kalihi. Supporters were using their Hanabusa signs as fans to try to cool off from the muggy heat.

    “It’s been an amazing campaign,” Hanabusa said to cheers.

    She reminded supporters that she was out funded and had less money to spend on ads.

    “This election is not over,” she declared. “It’s far from over.”

    Asked if Hanabusa would be taking the campaign to the Big Island, Peter Boylan, her campaign manager said, “Yes. Definitely.”

    There are about 8,000 registered voters in the two districts who will be allowed to vote by absentee ballots if they haven’t done so already.

    Schatz climbed

  • Ad Watch: Hanabusa Hits the TV Airwaves, Touts Local Upbringing

    · By Nick Grube

    The ad is the congresswoman’s first for TV, and presents the same message to voters as her previous radio spot about her being a woman of the people.

  • Ad Watch: Hanabusa Airs First Ad, Highlighting her Hawaii Roots

    · By Nick Grube

    The minute-long radio spot doesn’t touch on issues, but it does show that the congresswoman is hurting for cash.

  • Campaign Cash Advantage: Schatz’s Edge Over Hanabusa Is Paying Off

    · By Nick Grube

    UPDATED The senator has raised and spent more money than his opponent, but still seems to hold the advantage afforded by cash in the bank.