Democrats in Hawaii's 2nd District will chose a nominee, and likely their next member of Congress, on Saturday. Three-term Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono is vacating the seat to run for Senate, and that's created a big opportunity for either Mufi Hannemann or Tulsi Gabbard, the two main Democrats vying to replace her.
The Democratic primary essentially boils down to a race against time. Hannemann, the former mayor of Honolulu and a previous unsuccessful candidate for the House and Hawaii's governor's mansion, started out far ahead of the less well-known Gabbard, who sits on Honolulu's city council. But polls have shown the race steadily tightening through the spring and summer, as outside groups including EMILY's List, the Sierra Club, and VoteVets (Gabbard served in Iraq) spent heavily on mail and television ads backing Gabbard. The progressive groups have spent well over a half-million dollars on independent expenditures supporting Gabbard.
This is becoming something of a recurring theme for Hannemann, whose conservative social views have proven to be a barrier in previous runs for federal office. Progressive groups have lined up in opposition to him at every turn, and this time they backed Gabbard, who had opposed abortion and same-sex marriage in the past but made a conversion in the past few years.
Whoever emerges from the primary - whether Hannemann can leverage his early lead or whether Gabbard can catch him from behind in time - will be a prohibitive favorite in the general election.