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Senator declares victory after storm-delayed Hawaii primary

By Malia Mattoch McManus

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A U.S. Senator claimed victory on Friday in Hawaii's Democratic primary election, after voting in one precinct was delayed by a tropical storm, though his opponent had not ruled out an appeal to the state's top court.

Incumbent Brian Schatz won a total of 115,397 votes statewide, giving him a 1,769 vote lead over challenger Colleen Hanabusa, a U.S. Representative who gained 113,628 votes.

Friday's Puna district voting came six days later than the rest of the heavily Democratic state, which held primary elections on Aug. 9, two days after portions of the archipelago were hit by Tropical Storm Iselle.

Voting in two precincts of the Puna district had been postponed due to road damage. On Friday, Hawaii Electric Light Co, the island's main utility, said 3,800 Puna customers were still without electricity.

Earlier this week, Hanabusa argued in court that voters in Puna needed more time to recover from the storm, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper. The court ruled against her, paving the way for Friday's vote.

The winner of the primary between Schatz and Hanabusa will advance to November's general election, holding what is expected to be an advantage in this heavily Democratic state. 

"We ended up having two primary election, which is an extraordinary thing," said Schatz after thanking the voters on the Big Island and Maui.

Asked if she would challenge the outcome at the state's Supreme Court, Hanabusa told reporters, "I have no idea what we will do."

Assuming Hanabusa does not file and then win a challenge, Schatz will now advance to November's general election.

After regular voting, Schatz held a 1,635 vote lead over challenger Colleen Hanabusa, a U.S. Representative.

The state election officials had not released a breakdown for Puna and Maui districts.

Incumbent Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie was soundly defeated in the state's Democratic primary, results showed on Sunday, in an election that came as the state was cleaning up from a powerful storm and preparing for another. [ID:nL2N0QH029]

Hawaii election officials were also able to add about 800 mail-in absentee votes that had not been tallied previously from Maui County to the statewide totals.

(Reporting by Malia Mattoch McManus in Honolulu; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and William Hardy)

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