Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann holds a 43 percent-to-33 percent lead over City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House 2nd District seat, the latest Hawaii Poll shows.
For Hannemann a 10 percent lead this close to the Aug. 11 primary is sizeable, said Dan Boylan, University of Hawaii-West Oahu history professor and MidWeek political columnist.
“It’s a healthy margin,” he said, noting that he was skeptical of other recent polls that showed Gabbard pulling even with Hannemann.
But the results also show Gabbard supporters how far their candidate has come since February.
“I think she’s got a shot, but I think it’s a long shot,” Boylan said, adding that’s where the sizeable 9 percent of undecided voters in the poll could play a key role.
The poll reflects the views of 343 people who said they would choose a Democratic ballot in the primary. It was conducted by Ward Research Inc. for the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now from July 12 to 21, and has a margin of error of 5.3 percent.
Both Hannemann and Gabbard put a positive spin on the results.
Hannemann said the poll numbers show that “our message of sending someone to Washington who has proven experience and a track record of results is resonating.”
Gabbard noted that a separate Hawaii Poll conducted in February showed Hannemann beating her by a 65 percent-to-20 percent margin in a head-to-head comparison.
“What this poll and other polls are showing is that we are surging and that we have the momentum,” she said.
Unlike the February poll, also done by Ward, the latest poll featured two other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. The results, however, show Hilo attorney Bob Marx and veteran congressional aide Esther Kia‘aina trailing far back with 8 percent and 7 percent respectively.
Hannemann does better on the neighbor islands, which make up about 65 percent of the 2nd District’s voters, beating Gabbard 44 percent to 29 percent. On the neighbor islands, Marx and Kia‘aina collected 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
The margin between Hannemann and Gabbard is much closer on Oahu, where the former mayor leads the Army Guard captain by 43 percent to 41 percent.
Interestingly, Hannemann scores a larger margin of support among women than men. The poll shows 44 percent of women support Hannemann compared with 29 percent for Gabbard. Among men, 42 percent support Hannemann and 37 percent support Gabbard.
Gabbard’s gains in the overall poll run parallel with a dramatic rise in the number of people who have a favorable opinion of her.
The July poll shows 46 percent of those responding to the poll with a favorable opinion of Gabbard versus an 18 percent unfavorable rating. In February she had only an 18 percent favorable rating and a 19 percent unfavorable rating.
In February, 40 percent of respondents said they had never heard of Gabbard. In July only 15 percent said they didn’t know her.
Hannemann’s campaign contends the public is being influenced by advertising paid on Gabbard’s behalf with a large influx of cash from independent special-interest groups on the mainland.
Gabbard, in response, said her surge is due to the hard work of her supporters and “the support of grass-roots organizations like Sierra Club, veterans and women’s groups,” while Hannemann’s support has come from “giant corporations and Wall Street banks.”
Hannemann said while his campaign has received donations from Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank interests, it has no contributions from Wall Street banks. He noted that Gabbard and others also accepted contributions from local banks or their executives.
Gabbard’s campaign raised $320,505 from April 1 through June 30 while Hannemann raised $252,392 during that same period, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The same reports showed Hannemann still with the overall lead in contributions with $1,041,884 versus $891,320 raised by Gabbard.
Hannemann’s favorable numbers have declined slightly since February.
In July, 55 percent of those polled said they had a favorable opinion of the former mayor versus a 38 percent unfavorable rating. Hannemann had a 59 percent favorable rating and a 33 percent unfavorable rating in February.
In both the July and February polls, only 1 percent said they had never heard of Hannemann.
In July, 21 percent said they have heard of Gabbard but not enough to form an opinion, down slightly from the 23 percent in February. In both polls 7 percent said they had heard of Hannemann but not enough to form an opinion.