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Thursday, February 4, 2010
Making Djou the next Scott Brown
By Selected News Articles @ 3:47 AM :: 7345 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

by Reid Wilson http://hotlineoncall.nationaljournal.com    LINK>>> to original

Just a few weeks after snagging a Dem-held Senate seat in MA, the GOP has turned to a special election in Pres. Obama's birthplace as their next target. And it helps that they see parallels between their candidates in the ordinarily deep-blue territory.

GOPers are now actively touting Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) as the next Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-MA), and the party sees him as a strong contender to take over for resigning Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D). And the comparisons, Djou said, help his case.

"Scott Brown's win put a lot of wind in the sails of my campaign. It clearly shows that the American people are in the mood for a change of direction in Congress," Djou said in an interview. "His focus on fiscal responsibility but also his more moderate views on social issues, coupled with his focus on the average family, that is my campaign."

Meanwhile, one of Djou's consultants is actively encouraging the comparisons. In a memo released this week, web strategist Patrick Ruffini touted Djou's potential as the candidate next able to take down a Dem-held seat.

"As in Massachusetts, Charles Djou is strongly positioned to benefit from 'perfect storm' conditions that include a great candidate, message, and organization, the district's recent history of Republican voting, and Hawaii's unique special election rules," Ruffini wrote. Djou's win, Ruffini wrote, would "once again shock the political world."

HI law only allows for one special election. The candidate who gets a plurality of votes wins. And Djou is facing ex-Rep. Ed Case (D), state Sen. Pres. Colleen Hanabusa (D) and state Sen. Will Espero (D), 3 candidates who could split the vote and hand Djou the win.

Both Brown and Djou are moderates who play up their independence more than their party label. Djou favors certain aspects of health care reform -- he wants to see an individual deduction in the tax code and improved health savings accounts, and he thinks GOPers need to do more to propose their own alternatives.

"It's still incumbent upon Republicans to offer something better. If all you campaign on is that I'm a Republican and not a Democrat, you won't win an election, myself included," Djou said. "What I'd like to see more of is the Republicans advocate more clearly what we can do better."

Djou will play up his fiscal conservatism and call for earmark reform. But like Brown, he will avoid social issues, on which he largely agrees with Dems. Djou is pro-choice, and, as an Army Reserve officer himself, he said he would go farther than Obama on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. During his State of the Union, Obama promised to re-examine the policy.

"I think it is a policy failure. It doesn't work. I am disappointed the president didn't just sign an executive order ending it right now," Djou said of DADT.

Like MA, HI has a long history of voting Dem. But the Honolulu-based 1st isn't completely blue; it has voted GOP in the last 4 GOV elections and gave Pres. Bush 47% of the vote in '04, thanks to a large military presence around Pearl Harbor.

Still, even as he held a fundraiser with RNC chair Michael Steele and addressed RNC members during their winter meeting last week, Djou will take a page from Brown's playbook and assert his independent streak.

"I've made it clear, I don't covet the national Republican Party's label or covet being anointed by them at all. I certainly welcome their help and their support. For me, I've always build my career as both a state legislator as well as a city councilman, being an independent voice for my constituents," Djou said in an interview in HI. "So while I don't shy away from the label of being a Republican, a partisan label has never been what I'm about."

But the comparisons to Brown should only go so far, Djou insisted. "One big difference is, I have no nude photos in Cosmo," he joked.

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