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Primary Primer: Races to Watch in Mass. and Hawaii

In the final day of major primaries before the Nov. 7 general election, all eyes are on Massachusetts where Democrats will pick their nominee to challenge Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R).

The race has been a low-key affair to date, as the three candidates have been loathe to attack one another until the final days of the primary. Former Deputy U.S. Attorney General Deval Patrick appears to have surged into a lead over wealthy businessman Chris Gabrieli and state Attorney General Tom Reilly. But it remains to be seen whether and how Healey's decision to launch ads attacking Gabrieli will effect the race.

Aside from the Massachusetts race, the only voting of note today is in Washington, where Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) and former Safeco Insurance executive Mike McGavick (R) have nominal primary opponents.

And don't forget the Hawaii primary this Saturday, where Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is trying to beat back a primary challenge from Rep. Ed Case (D), and a slew of aspiring candidates are running for Case's soon-to-be vacant 2nd District seat.

Here's a quick primary run-down:

Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

Reilly began the race as the frontrunner only to be surpassed by Gabrieli and his willingness to spend millions of his own dollars on the contest. But in the race's final days it is Patrick who looks like the nominee. A poll released Monday and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center for the Boston Globe showed Patrick with a 46 percent to 25 percent lead over Gabrieli. Reilly took 18 percent in that poll.

Healey's decision to run ads hitting Gabrieli in the final days of the primary is a tough one to read. Republicans privately have made no secret that Gabrieli, who has considerable personal wealth and no voting record to attack, is the most difficult of the three candidates for Healey to beat on Nov. 7. But does Healey's involvement in the primary make Democrats who are leaning toward Patrick think twice and vote strategically for Gabrieli? In our experience voters tend not to vote strategically, but the Republican's ad certainly complicates the equation in today's primary.

Should Patrick win the primary, Republicans believe he can be easily portrayed as a liberal -- allowing Healey to co-opt the ideological middle, a necessity for a GOPer to win in this strongly Democratic state. Of course, a Patrick win would also draw national headlines as he would be in position to become the state's first black governor and only the second African American governor elected in the nation. (Don't forget the incredible outpouring of positive coverage that followed Sen. Barack Obama's victory in the 2004 Illinois primary.)

Massachusetts Democrats haven't held the governor's mansion since Michael Dukakis left office in 1991, and they are eager to break that 16-year drought. While Healey has run a creditable race, she does not possess the candidate skills of outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney (few do) and will have a hard time convincing Democrats to support her in what looks like a year defined by partisanship.

Hawaii Democratic Senate Primary

While the Connecticut race between Sen. Joe Lieberman and businessman Ned Lamont drew most of the attention from Democratic critics of the Iraq war, the race between Akaka and Case has many of the same dynamics. Akaka voted against the use of force resolution against Iraq in late 2002 while Case, who was not yet in Congress at the time, has said he would have supported the resolution.

Akaka's campaign has focused on the candidates' differences on the Iraq issue, while Case has cast the race as a chance for Hawaii Democrats to begin looking toward the future by electing a younger man to the Senate. Both Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) are 82, and Case has argued that a state as small as Hawaii needs to begin rebuilding its seniority (The last time Hawaii elected a new senator was in 1990, when Akaka won the right to finish out the term of the late Spark Matsunaga; together, Inouye and Akaka have 60 years of service in the Senate).

Voters don't seem convinced. A poll conducted for the Honolulu Advertiser showed Akaka with a 51 percent to 38 percent lead over Case. Asked what the most important issue was in deciding their vote, 43 percent said the candidates' "stances on issues" while 18 percent said "transition to the next generation."

Whichever Democrat emerges from Saturday's primary, this seat is not in jeopardy for Democrats in the general election. Former prisoner of war Jerry Coffee (R), who was recruited into the race by Gov. Linda Lingle (R), recently dropped out of the contest due to health reasons.

Hawaii's 2nd District

Case's surprising decision to abandon his safe House seat for a run against Akaka created a rare opening in Congress for a number of candidates. The frontrunners are former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono (D) and former state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa (R) -- both of whom aren't new faces on the political scene.

Hirono, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1994, ran briefly for mayor of Honolulu in 2002 before switching to the governor's race. Though she won the nomination, she lost in the general to Lingle. Kawananakoa was the frontunner for a House seat in 1998 but abruptly left the race citing -- you guessed it -- health problems.

The 2nd District, which encompasses most of the state minus Honolulu and its suburbs, has a decided Democratic tilt, so Hirono would be considered a strong favorite against Kawananakoa.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 19, 2006; 2:25 PM ET
Categories:  Governors , House , Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Line: A Few Bright Spots For GOP in Gov. Rankings
Next: Rambling Through the '06 Battleground


How is Hawaii allowed to hold primary elections this Saturday when it's Rosh Hashanah--the Jewish New Year?? The Jewish Governor, Linda Lingle, ought to know better!

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | September 20, 2006 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice that in raw votes Maria Cantwell did 100,000+ better than McGavick in the primary? I think is underscores who difficult Cantwell will be to unseat in November.

Posted by: chadconfetti | September 20, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Patrick wins big in Mass & is getting a big bump off the coverage. I expect polling this week would show him with a double-digit lead. Expect Healy to be on the airwaves by tonight. She outlined the attack last night: taxes, spending, crime. The subtext will be that you have to have a Republican to balance the Dem State Assembly.

I don't think the Healy attack on Gabrielli had any real impact - Patrick was surging already, and I assume the Rs knew that. Piling on?

In retrospect, Patrick looks like the strongest candidate the Dems could field: his warmth and charisma are the asymmetrical answer to the R money and negativity. He's already defused the tax issue, I think, with a very tight delivery of the message that income tax cuts mean property tax increases. It's hard to see the substance on crime, they may be playing code against his skin color. Spending is real, but it's a question of spending on what? Schools? Cops? Parks?

The R attack is problematic as well, because Healy will have to do much of the running with that ball herself. Romney has taken himself completely out of the race with his focus on national, and there simply isn't a recognizable Republican anywhere else in the state. Relatively anonymous 527s attacking each candidate will likely cancel each other out.

Christy Mihos' independent candidacy probably won't have a lot of pop (5%?), but to the extent he does pull votes, he hurts Healy.

Patrick's campaign was criticized early for being inefficient, spending lots on organization. He got way more bang for the buck than either of his opponents, who got nothing for their pre-Labor Day TV buys. Patrick had the organization, and enough money to cover the air from Labor Day on.

Patrick will need more money to get back on the air quickly, because the general electorate is much larger than the primary's. Still, it's his to lose. Healy should close it some in the next few weeks, but it's a tough race for her.

Posted by: WMP | September 20, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The results were expected now the interest begins. A State that is quite dems and having a repug Gov. for the past 15 years will, as most think including you CC, boil down to the tried and true Liberal attack that has been so good for the repugs for so many years. Race/Relegion won't be talked about much.

Posted by: lylepink | September 20, 2006 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Evangelicals love Israel because they believe it is key to Christ's Second Coming, as allegedly laid out in Revelations (of course, some Christians, such as myself, don't believe that's what Revelations is about at all, but that's another subject). These evanglicals love the Jews because of a role they will play later on; that doesn't mean they'd want to elect one. Love 'em or not, they still don't believe in Jesus. That's what I've picked up on, living in evangelical areas of Idaho and Texas, and hanging out with evangelicals in New Hampshire.

Posted by: Nathan E. | September 20, 2006 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Chris, you're still delusion. Healey has absolutely, 100% no chance of winning. Patrick won in a LANDSLIDE VICTORY, winning 50% of the vote, a full 23 points ahead of Gabrieli, and winning EVERY COUNTY in the state. Stick a fork in this election, it's done.

Posted by: Melanie | September 19, 2006 11:57 PM | Report abuse

MikeB: "I expect we could win if we were as manipulative and immoral as Rove, but you have to ask yourself if it's worth it."

That's sore loser talk if I ever heard it. Isn't it a bit soon to be throwing in the towel on an election democrats have spent the last year drooling over?

Kudos on your portrayal of motherhood as bonbon-eating-soap-opera-watching-republican-baby-making...maybe the dems should run on that issue in November.

Posted by: murphy | September 19, 2006 7:33 PM | Report abuse

JEP - I thnk you've missed the point. Bush and Rove HAVE SUCESSFULLY changed the debate. People are mad as hell at the Muslems, especially over the current deal with the Pope. And gas prices are dropping fast. Here they are down nearly 50 cents a gallon in one month. By the time of the election, they are expected to drop to under $2 a gallon! Bush's approval numbers are up to 44% and the poll of likely voters is a 48%-48% tie. All because of the redirected anger and cheap gasoline. Oh, and the new television season is almost upon us. Expect the soccer moms to go back to munching on bonbons and incubating another dumb Republican voter while watching soap operas. I expect we could win if we were as manipulative and immoral as Rove, but you have to ask yourself if it's worth it.

Posted by: MikeB | September 19, 2006 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone really beleive this is about child pornography? Or is it really about government keeping tabs on every single thing you do - and think?

'Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that Congress should require Internet service providers to preserve customer records, asserting that prosecutors need them to fight child pornography.

Testifying to a Senate panel, Gonzales acknowledged the concerns of some company executives who say legislation might be overly intrusive and encroach on customers' privacy rights. But he said the growing threat of child pornography over the Internet was too great.

"This is a problem that requires federal legislation," Gonzales told the Senate Banking Committee. "We need information. Information helps us makes cases."

He called the government's lack of access to customer data the biggest obstacle to deterring child porn.

"We have to find a way for Internet service providers to retain information for a period of time so we can go back with a legal process to get them," he said.

Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller have met with several Internet service providers, including Time Warner Inc.'s AOL which also owns, Comcast Corp., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

The law enforcement officials have indicated to the companies they must retain customer records, possibly for two years. The companies have discussed strengthening their retention periods -- which currently run the gamut from a few days to about a year -- to help avoid legislation.'

Posted by: drindl | September 19, 2006 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Matt Matsunaga ( is running neck-and-neck with Mazie Hirono in Hawaii's District 2. He's the son of the late-Senator Spark Matsunaga and has a lot of respect on the state level. He's widely seen as more Washington-ready than Hirono--and more approachable overall. There are 10 Dems in this Saturday's primary--so it's going to be tight. But you're right that whichever Dem wins the primary should have an easy ride through the general.

Posted by: Honolulu | September 19, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

This little talk with the talk radio right-wingers is futher evidence of what JEP, drindl, Michael and others beside myself have been posting as fact and some who support GW ask for specifics, well well can we get more specific and just what about??

Posted by: lylepink | September 19, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I've not seen a good explanation for Allen's response. My quackery-psycho-analysis would say that maybe he is embarrased about his family history. Or maybe he thinks it wouldn't play well in outstate VA.

I find it curious that on the one hand he talks about Grandpa who was incarcerated by the Nazis, but on the other, gets his dander up when someone asks if his mother was Jewish. What gives?

Posted by: bsimon | September 19, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone understand what was behind Sen Allen's apparently very angry response when he was asked whether his mother's family might have been Jewish (during a debate James Webb in Northern VA yesterday)? The question might not have been germane to the debate, but as reported in the WAPost, his angry response was pretty much over the top (beyond the pale?). Is this another example of his trying to brow-beat people or embarrass them when he doesn't know the answer to a question, or does he think his conservative supporters would hold something like this in his ancestry against him. I always thought that evangelicals loves the Jewish people and Israel. What gives?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2006 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"what the hell is he talking about?"


He's been in the strategic closet with Luntz and Rove, and as usual, he's not exactly eloquent in his presentation...

Bush knows there are too many Muslims in the US to make them the enemy, now he's got to reframe it as good and evil, because his Christian Crusade has burnt out.

If he could still get those Evangelicals all fired up with the word "Muslim" or "Islamic" he wouldn't give it up, but now he's got to resort to the much more universal "good versus evil" because too many people know better.

The war and torture demons are becoming glaringly visible to the faithful; you just can't plead for the right to torture day after day, without it finally opening some of those sleepy spiritual eyes.

So Luntz and Rove have convinced Puppet George to change the dialogue, before he drops any further in the polls. And as usual, George did what they asked, with all the dicretion and diplomacy of a wet cowpie.

Posted by: JEP | September 19, 2006 5:09 PM | Report abuse

And keep in mind, we don't know if these people are even guilty of anything...

In 2003, Passaro, while interrogating an Afghan prisoner, allegedly beat him with a flashlight so severely that he eventually died from his injuries. In two other incidents of prisoner abuse, the Times reported last month, charges probably will not be brought against C.I.A. personnel: the 2003 case of an Iraqi prisoner who was forced head first into a sleeping bag, then beaten; and the 2002 abuse of an Afghan prisoner who froze to death after being stripped and chained to the floor of a concrete cell.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 19, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Tom Baxter and Jim Galloway write for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that right-wing talk-show host Mike Gallagher upstaged Ann Coulter at a Georgia Christian Coalition dinner Saturday night.

"He told the audience he was fresh back from an hour-and-45-minute session which President Bush held in the Oval Office Friday afternoon with him and four other conservative talk show hosts: Atlanta's Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Michael Medved. Rush Limbaugh couldn't make it, he said.

"Though he said this session was supposed to be off the record, Gallagher described it at some length, including Bush's observation to the right-wing radio jocks that the War on Terror has to be about right versus wrong, 'because if it's about Christianity versus Islam, we'll lose.'"

bush gives a blow job in the oval office to the most heinous people on earth--and what the hell is he talking about?

Posted by: drindl | September 19, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

For the second time, Chris, Massachusetts doesn't have a governor's mansion. We flinty New Englanders let our governors feather their own nests.

Posted by: Mark in Vermont | September 19, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

CC, Patrick has been ahead in the polls for a few weeks now. Also Survey USA has Patrick up by 17 points over Gabrieli.

Healey can run all she wants to the middle. Deval Patrick will stick her with the fact that she had Dick Cheney (debatedly the most hated person in Massachusetts) raise money for her campaign. She has absolutly no gravitas, and the only reason she won Lt Gov was because of Romney. Now that connection is gonna kill her campaign as most folks in Mass are pissed about Mitt mailing it in for the past year or so.

Posted by: Andy R | September 19, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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