By Derrick DePledge
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
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.
II. SCHATZ IS RUNNING A WINNING CAMPAIGN
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, while Roll Call noted that Schatz had sent a strong message to any potential primary foe. 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.
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. 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.
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.
C. A WINNING TEAM
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.
III. HANABUSA’S CAMPAIGN IS UNDER PERFORMING
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, but that support has not materialized.
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 both in Hawaii and on the mainland.
Some have attempted to brush off Senator Schatz’s fundraising success as merely a
consequence of his incumbency, while others have convinced themselves that Senator Reid and the DSCC are responsible, 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. From a “low-key” campaign roll out to the resignation of Representative Hanabusa’s deputy chief of staff after a Washington Post story exposed plans for improper coordination of an independent-expenditure, 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. By June, however, independent polling by Civil Beat showed Senator Schatz with a close lead, 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.
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.
IV. PROGRESSIVES WIN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES IN HAWAII
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
B. SENATOR SCHATZ IS THE PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATE IN THIS RACE
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
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.