Political Radar

Interested parties

October 17th, 2013

The full text of a memo issued by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz's Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Senate has been released publicly.


To:      Interested Parties

From: Schatz for Senate

Re:       State of the Hawaii Senate Race

Date:   October 14, 2013

I.          OVERVIEW

Since taking office on December 27, 2012, Senator Brian Schatz has assembled an impressive team running an effective, modern, and winning campaign.  Because of the circumstances related to his appointment, Schatz now stands as the 85th ranked Senator in terms of seniority, and he is one of only four freshmen with a subcommittee chairmanship.  Historically, Hawaii has never voted an incumbent Senator or any Democratic member of Congress out of office.

Conversely, Congresswoman Hanabusa has struggled since day one to establish a winning campaign or a coherent rationale for her candidacy.  Hanabusa badly trails Schatz in fundraising and endorsements, and she has had a series of missteps evidencing that her campaign is not up to the rigors of a Senate race.



In the first three quarters of 2013, Schatz raised an impressive $2.7 million, and he has over $2 million cash on hand.  Conversely, Hanabusa has barely raised over $1 million in this cycle including nearly $230,000 that she transferred from her House campaign account.

Schatz’s successful fundraising has drawn national attention.  National Journal recognized Schatz as one of its campaign fundraising winners,[1] while Roll Call noted that Schatz had sent a strong message to any potential primary foe.[2] On the other hand, The Hill identified Hanabusa as a “Fundraising Loser” noting that Schatz “again hammered” his Democratic challenger in the second quarter of fundraising.[3]

In the third quarter of 2013, Schatz continued his fundraising dominance by raising close to $700,000.  As reported by the Honolulu Star Advertiser, however, Hanabusa “struggled through a subpar quarter” raising an “underwhelming” $440,000.[4] Furthemore, during the third quarter, Hanabusa spent approximately $323,000 of the $440,000 she raised, meaning that her campaign had a staggering 73% burn rate.[5]


In a Hawaii Democratic primary, endorsements from labor unions, environmental groups, and progressive organizations matter, and Schatz continues to dominate this aspect of the campaign.  Hawaii has one of the highest percentages of unionized workers in the country, and Schatz has already received early endorsements from 28 unions.  Schatz’s labor endorsers include Hawaii’s largest union, HGEA (AFSCME) as well as the Hawaii Building & Trades Council, the Teamsters, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, the Hawaii Nurses Association, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the Seafarers, and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

In addition to labor endorsements, Schatz received key endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, and MoveOn.org (which has nearly 40,000 members in Hawaii).  To date, Schatz has received endorsements from 34 groups and Hanabusa has only received 7 endorsements.

Most significantly, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has publicly endorsed Schatz, and Senators Reid, Durbin, Schumer, and Bennet as well as 26 other Senate Democrats have made campaign contributions.


Schatz has assembled an all-star consulting and campaign team with a history of winning races in Hawaii.  Mark Mellman served as the pollster for Senator Akaka’s winning primary campaign in 2006 as well as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s successful primary campaign for Congress in 2012.  Rich Davis of Dixon Davis Media Group led the media team for Senator Mazie Hirono’s successful primary and general election campaigns in 2012.  Ed Peavy of Mission Control served as the mail vendor for the successful Honolulu mayor’s race in 2012.

Honolulu native Clay Schroers has returned to Hawaii where he is serving as the campaign manager for Schatz.  Schroers successfully managed hard fought Congressional campaigns for Rep. Bill Owens in 2010 and Rep. Dan Maffei in 2012.

In 2007-2008, Schatz, together with his Chief of Staff Andy Winer, initiated and ran President Obama’s successful caucus and general election campaigns.  In the process, Schatz and Winer added over 30,000 new Democrats to the Democratic Party of Hawaii.  President Obama continues to have favorability ratings well in excess of 70% in Hawaii, and his in-state supporters closely identify Schatz with the Obama campaign.  Conversely, Schatz’s principal primary opponent served as the lead spokesperson for the Clinton campaign.

Schatz’s ability to tap into the Hawaii Obama campaign structure continues to the present.  Earlier this year, the Schatz campaign attracted over 500 people to an organizing meeting, and these supporters are poised to serve as the backbone of the campaign’s field operations.


Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign has failed to meet nearly every expectation and benchmark it initially set, and it is badly foundering as we enter the fourth quarter of 2013.

From its inception, the Hanabusa campaign was propped up by outdated conventional wisdom and a handful of shifting self-created arguments why it would succeed.  First, Hanabusa contended she would have the backing of labor,[6] but that support has not materialized.[7]

In fact, Senator Schatz, as noted above, has garnered support from 28 of the 33 labor

unions that have made endorsements –including influential endorsements from HGEA, the Hawaii Building Trades Council, SHOPO, and the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.  In sum, the unions endorsing Senator Schatz represent in excess of 75,000 Hawaii members, while the unions endorsing Hanabusa have fewer than 22,000 Hawaii members.

Furthermore, 24 of the 28 unions that have endorsed Senator Schatz either endorsed or contributed to Representative Hanabusa’s previous campaigns, demonstrating that labor knows both candidates and have decisively chosen to stand with Senator Schatz.

Second, the Hanabusa campaign believed it would inherit the lion’s share of Hawaii’s Democratic campaign infrastructure, mostly in terms of local and national fundraising operations as well as a campaign team.  However, Senator Schatz has clearly demonstrated he is a superior and more sophisticated fundraiser[8] both in Hawaii and on the mainland.[9]

Some have attempted to brush off Senator Schatz’s fundraising success as merely a

consequence of his incumbency,[10] while others have convinced themselves that Senator Reid and the DSCC are responsible,[11] but, while neither excuse accounts for Senator Schatz’s diligent, disciplined and modern approach to fundraising, it’s inarguable that the Hanabusa campaign has utterly failed to meet even her modest expectations.  To date, Senator Schatz is closing in on $3 million raised, while Hanabusa will have raised barely $1 million.

Third, the Hanabusa campaign brazenly premised her candidacy on her claim to be

the most “experienced” candidate; but recent events have demonstrated that it is Representative Hanabusa, not Senator Schatz, who lacks the modern political and communications infrastructure to wage a successful Senate campaign.[12] From a “low-key” campaign roll out[13] to the resignation of Representative Hanabusa’s deputy chief of staff[14] after a Washington Post story exposed plans for improper coordination of an independent-expenditure,[15] the clear indication is that Representative Hanabusa has failed to establish a campaign structure capable of running a successful Senate race.

Fourth, from the outset, the Hanabusa campaign portrayed itself as the front-runner

with an insurmountable lead.  In February, the Hanabusa campaign began touting a dubious internal poll claiming a 20%+ lead on Senator Schatz.[16] By June, however, independent polling by Civil Beat showed Senator Schatz with a close lead,[17] while internal polling conducted by the respected Mark Mellman found Senator Schatz with a 1 point lead and a 13 point lead among voters who knew both candidates.[18]

The downward trajectory of the Hanabusa campaign will likely continue as Senator Schatz continues to amass a larger war chest as well as additional endorsements from labor unions.  The Hanabusa campaign faces an uphill battle with fewer resources and a lack of institutional support.


A.         2002-2012 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES

Since 2002, Hawaii’s electorate has become more progressive and more Democratic-leaning as a result of: (1) an influx of progressive leaning voters who migrated to Hawaii in the 1990s and; (2) the impact of President Obama.

In 2002, Democrats had a 31-20 majority among members of the State House, and in 2003, Democrats had a 20-5 majority among members of the State Senate.  Now, Democrats hold an overwhelming majority of 24-1 in the State Senate and a 44-7 majority among members of the State House.

As Hawaii’s electorate has moved to the left, progressive candidates, regardless of ethnicity, have won every major contested Democratic primary race since 2002.  Although some pundits have theorized that ethnicity determines Democratic primaries, recent history clearly demonstrates that progressive ideology is the more dominant factor.

Major Democratic Primary Races Since 2002

2002               Mazie Hirono defeats Ed Case in the Democratic primary for governor.

2004               Dennis Kucinich wins Maui County in Hawaii’s Presidential Caucus

2006               Senator Akaka defeats Ed Case in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

Mazie Hirono defeats Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary for the Second Congressional District

2010               Neil Abercrombie defeats Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for governor

Brian Schatz defeats Norman Sakamoto and Bobby Bunda in the Democratic Primary for lieutenant governor

2012               Mazie Hirono defeats Ed Case in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

Tulsi Gabbard defeats Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for the Second Congressional District


Although some pundits have posited that there are few, if any, ideological differences between Schatz and Hanabusa, that viewpoint is simply untrue.  Some of the key ideological distinctions between the two candidates are set forth in the following table:

Where They Stand

Brian Schatz

Colleen Hanabusa
Co-sponsored the Medicare Drug Savings Act to make drug companies pay a rebate to the federal government (supported by AARP, NCPSSM) Opposed rebate to federal government

Has pledged not to raise the retirement age or cut benefits for Social Security or Medicare.  Co-Sponsored Harkin-Schatz Social Security Enhancement Act

Voted in support of the Simpson Bowles Commission’s recommendations that raised the retirement age and cut benefits for Social Security

Supported the public option

Had “concerns” about the public option in the 2009 proposed House version of healthcare reform

Voted against the FISA extension (Dec. 2012); called for an investigation into domestic wiretapping (June 2013)

Voted for the FISA extension (Sept. 2012)

Said he would not support CISPA due to its “insufficient privacy protections”

Voted for CISPA, calling it an “effective compromise” and had “strong use limitations for any shared data”

In 100% agreement with the League of Conservation Voters’ issues and received its endorsement; Supported Gina McCarthy as head of the EPA; Signed a letter urging Obama to choose a strong nominee willing to “craft bold solutions”

Opposed the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, and voted with the Republican Caucus to delay implementation of new boiler rules

Voted to allow clear-cutting of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska

Unequivocally supported Honolulu’s mass transit rail project

Said she personally did not support Honolulu’s steel on steel mass transit rail project

Consistently supported marriage equality calling it “a constitutional right for all Americans”

Voted for two amendments that were meant to derail state civil unions legislation in 2009; Defined marriage as between one man and one woman until applying for Senate appointment in December 2012.


With decisive advantages in money, endorsements, organization, and manpower as well as an ideology more in tune with primary voters, Schatz is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate on August 9, 2014.  Schatz is the only candidate in this race to win statewide office, and the Abercrombie-Schatz gubernatorial ticket significantly outpolled Hanabusa in 2010, when she was a candidate for Congress.  At 40 years old, Schatz has the promise of serving many years in the U.S. Senate and accumulating all important seniority for the constituents of Hawaii.

17 Responses to “Interested parties”

  1. hossana:

    Plus Hanabatta looked like a BIG DUNCE when she came on the Hanratty show or excuse me, the nationally televised talk show where she had NO CLUE whatsoever in her focus on the topics Hanratty was talking about and,instead, she rambled on some other meaningless topic and when Hanratty asked her did you see the topics I was focused on, she replied she never saw it and started to mumble and stumble her way across like an IDIOT....I daresay anyone from her campaign or her supporter to tell me I am fabricating this as I can go on search on YOUTUBE and find that clip that would really make her look like an IDIOT....nothing more and nothing less.

  2. Manoa_Fisherman:

    So is this Andy Weiner telling everyone what the state of the race is? Why is there no "author" of this memo? Unlike Hanabusa's office where people are held accountable, Schatz spins out "statements" that sound much like propaganda, rather than reality. If he is so wonderful, why doesn't he just email this to the entire state? Why just his big donors?

  3. nonpolitic:

    Sounds as though Mr. Schatz (or should I say Mr. Winer aka the "Whiner"), needed to put this in writing to prove to himself that he is the better candidate. Excuse me Mr. Appointed Senator, but saying it doesn't necessarily make it so. Throughout his political career, Mr. Schatz has failed to impress . . . relying solely upon exploiting opportunities instead of showing any real leadership (as if Hawaii would have voted for anyone else other than Mr. Obama. I give a lot of credit to Ms. Hanabusa for taking up the challenge of supporting Hillary Clinton). Mr. Schatz, please show some real leadership instead of making pronouncements that you are a leader. There is a difference you know.

  4. ohiaforest3400:

    Very slick but Schatz is still the snot-nosed little dweeb that makes everyone feel justified in hating Punahou grads. He hasn't earned any of this, it was given to him, like an empty vessel imported from the mainland, appointed by another haole from the mainland, and filled up with money from the mainland. We didn't elect Lingle; why should we elect him?

  5. keoki:

    Well said ohia!

  6. Sayer:

    I thought it came across as very arrogant and un-statesman like.

  7. kamaaina808:

    Appointed, not elected. Schatz is too much.

  8. justin:

    What is this fundraiser solicitation supposed to say? "Please donate to Schatz because he's a loser and doesn't deserve to be Senator because he was appointed." This memo was sent to potential donors, not the entire state. This is an effort by Schatz's campaign to raise money. I agree with ohiaforest3400 that Punahou grads come across as high maka maka, but the only way people will donate big dollars to a campaign is if the candidate has a reasonable chance of winning. There are no personal attacks or insults. It basically says "donate to Schatz because he is running a superior campaign." It's called campaigning.

  9. Bart Dame:

    I surprised this was leaked to the press. I doubt the campaign had intended that, or it would have been worded more diplomatically to avoid appearing so harsh and over-confident. This is the kind of document I would expect a vendor to provide to a potential customer. It happens all the time in the much praised "private sector." Imagine if a school district is considering supplying their students with tablets and having to decide between buying iPads or Windows 8 tablets. Each vendor will present their strong points, while criticizing the "weaknesses" of the competition.

    I can see why the Hanabusa campaign wants to turn this into some sort of "scandal." They hope the tone of the memo will come across as arrogant, but on most points, you know, on MINOR THINGS like the substance of the memo, it strikes me as pretty accurate.

    Brian Schatz has managed to pull together an impressive campaign team and has had great success in raising funds, garner support from unions Hanabusa had hoped would go with her. On the other hand, the Hanabusa campaign has had a difficult time coming up with a message as to why voters should support her, as we see in Peter Boylan's press release criticizing the campaign memo.

    Peter says the memo is "cynical." I don't see it. There is NOTHING in the memo which even begins to approach the NAKED CYNICISM of the Hanabusa campaign which was exposed when her deputy chief of staff was busted making a deal with the pharmaceutical industry whereby they would finance an "independent" anti-Schatz media campaign because Hanabusa had voted their way on a bill which raised drug costs for senior citizens. I can see why Peter would prefer we talk about a blunt, even "boastful" memo from the Schatz campaign rather than address THAT.

    I am assuming the Hanabusa campaign wants to avoid anything which hints of the notorious "Compare and Decide" flyer put out by the Mufi campaign. It is no secret Hanabusa is drawing support from some of the same network which backed Mufi for Governor an are now pinning their hopes on her. I doubt they would be happy to see echoes of the "Compare and Decide" flyer in some of the comments posted here.

    I welcome Schatz's recognition a lot of votes will be determined by the candidates views, and history of support for, "progressive" issues. I think the Hanabusa campaign has come to the same conclusion. I hope both campaigns will steer towards the high road and tell us where they stand on issues of import to Democratic primary voters. I really do not need to continue hearing about Senator Inouye's dying wish or Representative Hanabusa's professed "leadership abilities."

    I want to hear about things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement being negotiated in secrecy, which aims to transfer even more power trans-national corporations. President Obama has signaled he may be willing to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of a "Grand Deal" with the Republicans. How do they stand on these issues? Hawaii economy relies upon military spending, yet the US military budget is larger than that of almost all potential enemies combined. Are they willing to offend local military contractors and defense workers in order to get our federal budget under control? The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is the worst it has been since "the Roaring Twenties." Do they see this as a threat to the health of our society and what policies might they support to solve this growing problem?

    Most Hawaii voters are undecided in this race and I look forward to a thorough debate on the issues.

  10. Nala007:

    Schatz memo correctly points out Hanabusa's flip flopping on the issue of marriage equality. In 2009, she voted for amendments that derailed the civil union bill. After session ended (May 2009) and once she decided to run for Congress, she became a strong advocate of civil union legislation and quickly shepherded the bill to Senate passage in Jan 2010.

    In her 2012 congressional re-election campaign, Hananusa's platform included opposition to marriage for same-sex couples. Yet, the month following her victory (Dec 2012) after Sen. Inouye's death when Hanabusa wanted the Dem Party to recommend her for appointment to the US Senate, she had an epiphany and became a strong supporter of marriage equality. That's a fast evolution.

    It seems like she is the cunning and calculating one here. I'll be voting Schatz in the primary.

  11. Especially Incognito:

    Know nothing.
    See nothing.

  12. justin:

    Bart Dame: Excellent analysis.

  13. ohiaforest3400:

    I want to hear about the issues, too. But Schatz's arrogance here regarding fundraising makes me doubt the sincerity of any progressive position he takes, since taking gobs of money is anything but progressive. On the other hand, you had the bone-headed move by Hanabusa's campaign pleading faux desperation (or was it real?) about the state of its bank account balance. At this point, we're looking at who can run a better campaign and still haven't gotten to the issues. Schatz may be running a better campaign but I'm still asking "Where's the beef?", just as I am asking the same question about Tulsi.

    For the "average" voter, perception is reality and my remarks above are a reflection of what Schatz has done to damage the perception of him in a significant portion of the population. The question is whether they will vote and whether Schatz can motivate those who agree with his position on issues, despite the perception this memo creates. Still waiting . . . .

  14. nonpolitic:

    To Nala007:

    Just to let you know in case you weren't around in 1998, Mr. Schatz actually circulated his own campaign literature when trying to get elected to a state House seat in which he stated that he opposed same sex marriage.

    I agree with ohiaforest3400, thus far, all Mr. Schatz has been promoting is that he can run a better campaign (to this point). However, when it comes to leadership and policy, Mr. Schatz's resume is woefully lacking in substance. I imagine the only thing he can do (and has apparently done since he issued this letter) is boast about his campaign organization.

  15. Nala007:

    Nonpolitic- if what you say is true about Schatz's campaign literature from 1998, that doesn't concern me now in 2013, fifteen years later. We've seen major advances since then. But Hanabusa, explain now she opposed marriage equality as recently as Nov 2012 and then miraculously evolved in Dec 2012.

  16. Kolea:

    I think we have not focussed on the most controversial claim being made by the Schatz campaign in this memo:

    "Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign has failed to meet nearly every expectation and benchmark it initially set, and it is badly foundering as we enter the fourth quarter of 2013."

    I think we need to ask, is it more accurate to say the Hanabusa campaign is "foundering" or "floundering"? A strong case can be made that the Hanabusa campaign is "FLOUNDERING," meaning they are having a hard time figuring out how to proceed in an orderly fashion, showing strategic and tactical confusion. That statement would be uncontroversial. But the Schatz campaign is going too far when they claim the Hanabusa campaign is "FOUNDERING." That means they are analogous to a boat that is taking on water, starting to sink. I think that statement is premature and unfair.

  17. Nala007:

    A typo perhaps?

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