Obama's home congressional district in play
(This April 24, 2010 article is all over the internet, but not running on any Hawaii news outlet – we found it in The Pawtucket Times—THE source for local Honolulu news. Another AP article--dated April 25--did manage to make it into the Kauai Garden Isle. See below... )
by Mark Niesse
HONOLULU (AP) - 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.
With two Democrats also running for the seat, however, there's a chance they could split the vote and Djou could squeak by with a plurality and add to GOP confidence heading into the fall's midterm elections.
Democrats are not taking any chances as they hope to hold onto seats in this off-year election where the party in power generally loses seats.
"It's a Democratic district, and we're committed to making sure it remains Democratic," said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The group aired ads and blasted e-mails criticizing Djou but hasn't highlighted either of the Democratic candidates—former Congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.
While Republicans hope to use a victory as a harbinger of wider Democratic loses in November, the biggest factor influencing the race may be a long-standing internal Democratic Party dispute.
Case, a 57-year-old moderate Democrat and cousin of former AOL chairman Steve Case, held a rural Hawaii congressional seat and rankled party leaders in 2006 when he challenged longtime U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.
In a state where newcomers are expected to wait their turn and run for higher office until an incumbent decides to step down, Case questioned the then-82-year-old Akaka's fitness for office.
The tension remains today, with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, endorsing Hanabusa instead of Case, his former colleague in Congress.
National Democratic organizations have signaled that Case is their pick, believing that he's more electable than the more liberal Hanabusa.
Case acknowledged he's received help from the DCCC while Hanabusa said she hasn't talked to them since last year. Hanabusa, the first Asian-American woman in the country to lead a legislative body, has the backing of Hawaii's most powerful Democrats and labor unions.
Djou, who has built a reputation on voting against taxes, has taken advantage of the situation by speaking out against Washington Democrats' attack ads and their meddling in Hawaii's race.
The GOP is hoping Djou could continue the trend started in Massachusetts when voters elected Scott Brown.
"It's obvious to everyone that the national Democrats have come in and started to play in a state that doesn't usually welcome outsiders from Washington," said Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "They created a lot of this infighting."
Case said Republicans are trying to divide the Democratic vote between him and Hanabusa.
"They have made no bones whatsoever by saying this election is about embarrassing and defeating President Obama in his hometown," Case said. "Supporting Hanabusa is really indirect support for Djou, and he and his national handlers know that."
Djou, a 39-year-old Army Reserve captain who joined up six weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, argues that Hawaii voters could send a message that they're fed up with taxes, government waste and mounting federal debts.
Hanabusa, 58, said she will use the lack of support from national Democrats to her advantage.
"What's becoming evident is that I am the local candidate. I am the one with the local support base, and that's what's going to make the difference," said Hanabusa, who represents one of Oahu's poorest regions in the state Senate.
Democrats have controlled the Honolulu district since 1991, when Abercrombie won it to succeed Republican Pat Saiki. Abercrombie's resignation in February triggered the special election to fill the vacancy.
Whoever wins this special election will have to run again in this fall's primary and general elections.
The structure of the regularly scheduled elections benefits the Democrats because the leading Democrat will likely face Djou in a head-to-head match, and there will be no chance of a three-way split.
On the Web:
Ed Case: http://www.edcase.com
Charles Djou: www.Djou.com
Colleen Hanabusa: http://www.hanabusa2010.com
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Kauai Garden Isle: US House race in Hawaii goes from aloha to attacks
by Herb Sample
HONOLULU (AP) — With less than a month to go and the contest apparently as tight as a drum, 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. They aired tranquil biographical ads and generally were nice to each other at early debates.
But the "aloha" tone is hardening now — an indication that a race with high symbolic value for both parties is so closely divided.
"The rhetoric has certainly ratcheted up," said Neal Milner, a University of Hawaii political scientist. He added, "the stakes are very high, higher than for a usual special election, because the national Democrats are petrified that a Republican will win this seat in (President Barack) Obama's home territory."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has endorsed neither of the Democrat contenders, has taken the hardest tack in two television ads that target Djou, a Honolulu city councilman.
In its latest ad, Djou's tax policies are portrayed as supportive of the movement of American jobs overseas. It also casts his opposition to last year's federal economic stimulus law as synonymous with a disregard for the hundreds of teachers that may have been fired had the state not received the money.
"Check Charles Djou's troubling record on schools and jobs," the ad asks viewers.
The DCCC stands by the ads, said spokesman Andrew Stone. "Our efforts are two-fold," he said. "One, to make sure voters in Hawaii know about Charles Djou's record ... and two, making sure Democrats cast their ballots."
Djou called the ads deceitful and is airing his own to respond. "Unlike Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa, I've never voted for a tax increase or supported wasteful government spending," he says in his ad.
Case's campaign sent out a fundraising email Thursday in which Case's wife, Audrey, told donors, "We're under attack" by Djou. It's also airing a TV ad that highlights passages from a Honolulu Advertiser editorial that endorsed his candidacy but chided Djou and Hanabusa, the president of the state Senate.
Hanabusa "appears to have no problem with runaway spending in Washington," the ad quotes the editorial as saying.
Case, who represented another U.S. House seat in Hawaii from 2003-2006, said his ad merely repeats what the editorial stated. Besides, he charged, Djou attacked him first. He promised he'll respond to accusations from either rival.
"We're not going to take stuff like what Charles is pulling now lying down," Case said. "We're not going to let him get away with the standard misquoting and misstatement of my record."
Djou said he is similarly prepared. "I'm not going to shy away from distinguishing my record from my opponents," he said.
The change of tone in the campaign "reflects the fact that this race is a dead heat right now, asserted Hanabusa. "As a result of it being a dead heat ... this is when the gloves are going to come off."
Case took issue with her assessment of the race, contending that Hanabusa's campaign has stagnated. The "practical decision" voters have to make is between he and Djou, he said.
Hanabusa did not air ads for several days last week, but a spokeswoman said new ones are expected this weekend. Her previous commercials were biographical in nature or described her policies on Wall Street reform and small business tax breaks.
Milner said the campaign's tensions also result from the aid Hanabusa is getting from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who remains upset with Case for challenging the 2006 reelection of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.
Democratic voters may end up invigorated and eager to vote, or turned off, by the tussle, the professor said.
"Djou benefits from the latter and I think that is quite possible," Milner added. "The DCCC must be going nuts."