Hawaii’s Odd Special Election History

Posted December 11, 2009 at 4:19pm

By their very name, special elections are unusual occurrences. But to Hawaii voters they’re not all that uncommon.Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who announced Friday that he’s resigning early to concentrate on his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, initially came to the House by way of a 1986 special election that produced a bizarre outcome.Then-Rep. Cecil Heftel (D) resigned his 1st district seat in mid-July to run for governor, as Hawaii law then required. That spawned a special election on the same date as the regular September primary.Oddly, Abercrombie won the special election but lost the regular primary, making him Congressman-elect and a lame duck on the same day. (Abercrombie won back the seat in 1990 and has represented the 1st district ever since).Hawaii’s other Congressional district needed two special elections after Rep. Patsy Mink (D) died in September 2002 and was posthumously re-elected in November. Democrat Ed Case won a special election in late November to fill out the final weeks of Mink’s term, then won a second balloting in early January to win a full two-year term. There were 44 candidates in the latter race.And now Case, who left the House in 2006 to run unsuccessfully for the Senate, is running for Abercrombie’s seat.Is your head spinning yet?But there’s more. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) was first elected in a 1990 special contest held seven months after he was appointed to replace the late Sen. Spark Matsunaga (D).Hawaii’s other Senator, Daniel Inouye (D), was elected to the House in a July 1959 election held one month before Hawaii became the 50th state. Inouye has represented Hawaii in the Senate since 1963.