By B.J. Reyes – Honolulu Star Bulletin – May 23, 2010
The celebration at Hawaii Republican Party headquarters was barely 15 minutes old as Charles Djou, the GOP’s newest darling, had already moved past the historic victory and turned his sights toward the general election in November.
Djou won with close to 40% of the vote in the mail-in special election, beating Democrats Colleen Hanabusa, with 31%, and Ed Case, 28%. He now will head to Washington to take over Office 1502 in the Longworth Building, once occupied by Democrat Neil Abercrombie. The last of Abercrombie’s staff packed up last week.
“I congratulate Mr. Djou,” Abercrombie said in a statement. “Serving in the United States House of Representatives, for whatever period of time, is a great honor and an even greater responsibility.” He added, “The majority of voters in the district supported Democratic candidates in this special election. I am confident that a Democrat will win the congressional race in the general election.” The two Democrats also turned their eyes toward the party primary in September, as both vowed to continue the fight for the right to face Djou in a one-on-one vote in November.
The applause from Djou’s victory party could be heard six time zones away in Washington, D.C., where national party leaders trumpeted a victory on President Barack Obama’s home turf. “I congratulate Charles Djou for his victory and a successful campaign based on the widely shared values of cutting spending, shrinking government and creating real, permanent American jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. “I have no doubt that Hawaii families will be well-represented in Congress as he joins our fight to return common sense economic policies and fiscal sanity to Washington.”
Although Djou emerged the victor, he still could be considered the underdog, as Hanabusa and Case combined for 59%. Democrats will be looking to regroup and recapture the seat behind a single candidate in November. The party will have to overcome a divide that many, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blamed for handing the election to the GOP.
Most of Hawaii’s Democratic establishment, led by U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, backed Hanabusa, the state Senate president, while also exhibiting an open dislike of Case for his failed 2006 Senate run against U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka. National Democrats appeared to favor Case as the more electable candidate but shied away from picking either. Inouye plans to continue backing Hanabusa. “Naturally, notwithstanding the polls and notwithstanding the odds, I was hoping that Colleen would win,” Inouye said. “However, I’m certain that this fall, this November, she will do very well.”
Although recent polls showed Djou comfortably ahead, followed by Case, Hanabusa benefited from strong union support that is likely to show up again this fall. “This campaign had to overcome a lot of adversity to finish where we did,” she said. “We had people saying we didn’t have a chance and we should drop out. “It showed everyone that no matter what is being said, the bottom line was that voters in the 1st Congressional believed in us.”
Case had hoped for a late surge in voters to help push him over the top, but it never materialized. “We took $1 million of attack ads from Hanabusa and Djou,” Case said. “Clearly, Charles leveled all of his fire at me for the last three to four weeks — Hanabusa was unscathed — and I think that probably had a significant impact.”
The DCCC, which spent $300,000 in attack ads against Djou but pulled resources out of Hawaii this month because of the local party’s failure to rally behind one candidate, tried to downplay Djou’s victory.