HONOLULU – Voters chose Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono by a razor-thin margin to face well-financed Republican Linda Lingle in November in a race to become Hawaii's first female governor.
The voters also gave Democrat Rep. Patsy Mink a wide margin of victory in Saturday's primary to run for her 13th term.
The 74-year-old congresswoman, who received 83 percent of the vote, had been expected to coast to victory even though she has been hospitalized for treatment of viral pneumonia caused by a case of chickenpox and hasn't spoken publicly in more than three weeks.
In the final tally early Sunday, Hirono won the Democratic nomination with 76,685 votes, or 41 percent, followed by state Rep. Ed Case with 74,082 votes, or 40 percent. Former Republican legislator D.G. "Andy" Anderson was next with 33,378 votes, or 18 percent.
Case beat Hirono by 2,000 votes on Oahu, which has 80 percent of the state's population, but lost the Democratic primary in the count from other islands.
Lingle easily won the GOP primary against former legislator John Carroll, taking 90 percent of the vote, four years after narrowly losing the state's top office to incumbent Democrat Ben Cayetano.
She said she expects a different outcome this year because of a more organized Republican party and a campaign treasury equal to her three Democratic rivals' combined.
"It's going to be much more of a coordinated campaign on this side," Lingle said.
Hirono said Sunday that Democrats understood they needed to bring the party together going into November.
"I'm going to do my best to have that happen because a united party moving forward -- that's how were going to win the general election," Hirono said.
Cayetano was barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term.
In the congressional races in November, Mink will face 10-year state House member Bob McDermott, who won the Republican primary for the 2nd District. Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who was unopposed Saturday in the 1st District, will face auto dealer Mark Terry.
Democrats far outnumber Republicans among registered voters statewide, but the three-way Democratic race for governor exposed uncertainty in a party that has tightly controlled Hawaii politics since shortly after statehood in 1959.
Hirono had led the Democrat gubernatorial candidates in the polls, but Case, cousin of AOL Time Warner chairman Steve Case, won the endorsements of the two big Honolulu daily newspapers.
Hirono stressed her experience in government, while nearly all the other candidates campaigned for change.
Voter turnout for Saturday's primary was about 40 percent. In the 2000 general election, voter turnout in Hawaii was the lowest in the nation at 58 percent.