In Hawaii, two of the state’s statewide officials could be defeated in their primary and join an unusually small list of defeated incumbents. Governor Neil Abercrombie and Senator Brian Schatz, both Democrats, could be brought down thanks to a proposal that many Democrats support. Hawaii uses an open primary, meaning that any registered voter can vote in a party’s primary, even if they are a member of another party. Supporters of this system say that it can moderate politicians, since they’ll be appealing to a broad group of voters, rather than partisan party members. The late Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) proposed an open primary system in an attempt that independents and Democrats could switch over and support him in the Republican primary. As that effort stalled, he later switched and became a Democrat and lost his primary to Joe Sestak. In Mississippi, the state’s open primary has been attributed with the re-election of Sen. Thad Cochran over the Tea Party-aligned state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
Whereas the open primary is often discussing with limiting the Tea Party’s influence, the opposite side of the spectrum could be affected in Hawaii. The Governor and the Senator are both on the progressive side of the Democratic party, Senator Schatz has been endorsed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. However, polls put Schatz’s primary as a dead-heat, although he does have a lead. For the Governor’s primary, most polls have him placing second by a wide margin. The governor has been known for his combative and partisan style.
While the state is heavily Democratic, Republicans do have a base in the state. Abercrombie’s predecessor, former Governor Linda Lingle, was a Republican and her Senate election in 2012 was close at times. Lingle later lost the Senate election by twenty-five percentage points.