By Elyse Siegel, Nico Pitney &on 27 April 2010 in Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/21/hawaii-special-election-2_n_546702.html#s87152)
Image above: Left to right - Republican Charles Djou, Democrats Ed Case & Colleen Hanabusa. From source article.
[IB Editor's note: The following is a medley of political comments on the race for Neil Abecrombie's congressional seat in District One (Honolulu)]
A new poll from the Honolulu Advertiser finds Republican candidate Charles Djou leading Democratic contenders Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa by eight points in the special election for Hawaii’s first district congressional seat.
The survey shows Djou ahead of the pack with 36 percent of the vote, Case behind the Honolulu City Councilman with 28 percent, and Hanabusa trailing her opponents with 22 percent. Thirteen percent of likely voters remain undecided on which candidate to support. The unusual circumstances in the upcoming special election could give Republicans an opportunity to capture the Honolulu-area seat, which has been firmly held by Democrats since 1990.
It is clear from the Honolulu Advertiser poll that the district leans blue; however, the way in which Case and Hanabusa ultimately split the Democratic vote could provide Djou with a path to victory. "Today's poll validates what we have thought all along," Djou wrote in an e-mail message to supporters. "Our message of fiscal responsibility resonates with Hawaii voters."
The poll comes at a crucial moment in what has become a highly competitive race. Last week, officials began distributing ballots to Hawaii’s first district voters in advance of the all-mail special election on May 22. Republican candidate Charles Djou released a new ad on Monday morning.
Nowhere in the spot is it mentioned that Djou is a Republican -- hardly a surprise in this heavily Democratic district where Djou's only chance at victory comes from having the two Democratic candidates split the Dem vote. Indeed, Djou's ad highlights the fact that one of the Democrats in the race, Ed Case, spent time attacking Hawaii's popular Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka.
In 2006, Case unsuccessfully challenged Akaka in a Senate primary. A Tea Party-affiliated group is airing a radio ad touting Republican City Councilman Charles Djou in his race for Hawaii's vacant U.S. House seat. The ad, commissioned by Liberty First Political Action Committee, says Djou has never voted for a tax increase while on the council and asks listeners to send in their ballots in the all-mail election.
Voters should begin receiving ballots next week, and have until May 22 to return them to the state Office of Elections. Liberty First describes itself as particularly opposed to incumbents who support "dangerous far-left healthcare legislation." Djou has voiced adamant opposition to the health care reform law recently signed by President Barack Obama.
While national Democrat groups like the DCCC have made (rather expensive) moves to air their own brand of political advertisements to try to sway voters away from the Republican hopeful, Charles Djou, the NRCC seems to be doing the opposite. According to GOP consultant John Peschong, attack ads can be politically risky because they detract from a sense of friendliness and community, traits that Hawaiians wants to see embraced. “People want candidates that embody that sense of ‘Aloha,’ that sense of love for one another...it’s a little tough for local people to vote for someone who gets really negative,”
Peschong told CQ Politics. With less than a month to go in the hotly contested race, the three major candidates for Hawaii's vacant congressional seat and their allies are sharpening their attacks on each other. The competition between Republican Charles Djou and Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case began as a cordial affair. But the "aloha" tone is hardening now in television ads, an indication that a race with high symbolic value for both parties is so closely divided.
University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner says the rhetoric has ratcheted up because the special election is so close and because national Democratic leaders are petrified that a Republican will win the seat in President Barack Obama's home territory. Republicans believe they've seen this movie before: Campaign ads blanketing the airwaves. Money from national political parties flowing in.
And polls showing their candidate virtually tied with the competition. The plot played out in another Democratic stronghold, Massachusetts, in January with the election of a little-known Republican state senator to the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. The GOP hopes it can build on that win in Hawaii's upcoming special election for the 1st Congressional District seat representing urban Honolulu — President Barack Obama's hometown.
"The people of Hawaii have this clear opportunity to speak to the American people about whether or not we're satisfied with the status quo in Congress," Honolulu councilman and Republican candidate Charles Djou said. Democrats believe the May 22 election to serve the remainder of the term of U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to run for governor, will end as it has here for 20 years — with a Democratic victory.
The three major candidates for Hawaii's vacant U.S. House seat have met several times so far to debate the great issues of the day. Those are, in order: the economy, the economy and the economy. In the closely contested special election campaign for the 1st Congressional District seat, once hot-button controversies over abortion, gay rights, gun control and the like have taken a back seat to economic concerns.
"When you have a (national) unemployment rate of 10 percent, one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, that's going to be the issue," said Dan Boylan, a history professor at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu. That was not the case six years ago, when social issues were a dominant theme in many contested congressional races around the country. An Asian American political group last Thursday warned the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee not to take sides in the special election for Hawaii’s vacant 1st Congressional District seat.
The Asian American Action Fund, a self-described Democratic political action committee, says it would be unseemly for the DCCC to favor former Rep. Ed Case over state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. Case is Caucasian and Hanabusa is Japanese American. Both are Democrats. Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou is the lone major Republican in the race.
“What we’re saying is that Hawaii is a state that’s 58 percent Asian American and the DCCC should be very sensitive to that fact,” Gautam Dutta, executive director of the action fund, said in an interview. “What if this [was] an African American district and you had one white candidate and one African American candidate?” Dutta said. “Obviously, folks would think very carefully before they decided to weigh in in a contested party primary.
The situation is analogous here.” Andrew Stone, a spokesman for the DCCC, issued a statement in response, “The DCCC is focused on Charles Djou and making sure voters in Hawaii know about his record of supporting corporate special interests over the needs of families in Hawaii, like his attempts to eliminate taxes on big insurance companies and his opposition to tax cuts for middle class families in Hawaii.”
Hanabusa and her allies have spent several days fighting off reports that the DCCC favors Case as more electable in the winner-take-all election. Case has not addressed the reports. The Democratic committee’s first ad, which began airing Tuesday, mostly aimed at a no-new-taxes pledge that Djou signed. But the use of a gender-specific term in the ad’s concluding statement — “We need a congressman on our side’’— added fuel to speculation about the DCCC. Dutta called the ad’s conclusion “very insensitive.”
Stone said Wednesday that there was no significance to the gender-specific term. Dutta also contended Hanabusa has more support than Case from prominent Hawaii Democrats, labor unions, and other organizations, and has raised more money.
U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) are backing Hanabusa. Voters will begin receiving ballots in the all-mail special election in early May. They are due on May 22. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has endorsed Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou in the race for Hawaii's vacant 1st Congressional District seat.
Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts who lost the GOP nomination for president in 2008 but is considered a likely candidate for the party's nod in 2012.
Romney also said in a statement Monday that his political action committee is making a $2,500 contribution to the Republican councilman's campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Djou to reject Romney's aid.
A DCCC spokesman noted that Djou recently said it was an "outside intrusion" for the group to air a television ad critical of him.