A Hard Race For District 1 Hopefuls

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - March 24, 2010
| Del.icio.us

They’re calling the balloting for a candidate to fill the unexpired term of 1st District Rep. Neil Abercrombie a “special election,” but I think a crapshoot better describes it.

Consider how the state of Hawaii runs elections in tough economic times. At filing deadline last Wednesday, six candidates had paid their fees and handed in their petitions: former 2nd District Rep. Ed Case, City Councilman Charles Djou, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and three gentlemen who, so far as I know, have never held public office: Charles Amsterdam, Rafael Del Castillo and Philmund Lee.

The candidates have two months left in which to make their canvas of the voters. But the question in this election is: “Just who are the voters going to be?”


The deadline to register for the special election is April 22. Sometime soon thereafter the elections office will mail out ballots to all of the 1st District’s registered voters. Upon receipt of the ballot, the voter may fill in the bubble beside the name of his or her choice for Congress and mail it in. Mail-in ballots must be received by 6 p.m. May 22. Or a voter can go to Honolulu Hale between 8 a.m and 4 p.m. May 10-20 to cast an “absentee walk-in” ballot.

What, you may ask, is an “absentee walk-in ballot?” To which I would reply: “Damned if I know.” And I don’t understand what the State Elections Office means when it says that the last day to request an absentee ballot is May 15. If all but the so-called “absentee walk-ins” are mail-ins, aren’t all those who vote by mail absentee voters?

OK, OK. I’m sure the election officials know what they mean, even if I don’t. What I do know, however, are two things: 1) that in this, the first mail-in special congressional election in our history, no one should expect much of a turnout, and 2) that who turns out will mean everything in deciding who wins this special election.

Case characterizes himself as a moderate Democrat who can work with Republicans. He sees the exploding deficits as the nation’s greatest problem and an urgent need to balance the budget. But while he can work with Republicans, he feels that they “can’t just say ‘no’ all the time” to every presidential initiative.

Djou feels that the current congressional majority just wants to “spend, spend, spend,” and that “throwing money at problems solves nothing.” He considers President Barack Obama $787 million stimulus package “costly and ineffective.”

Hanabusa feels that the stimulus was “necessary to balance the state budget.” But she feels that Obama’s health care reform bill doesn’t go far enough. She wants a single-payer system. And as the candidate who enjoys most of the union endorsements, Hanabusa sees jobs as the nation’s No. 1 priority.

Array them from left to right: Hanabusa, Case, Djou. But who wins has little to do with their place on the political spectrum - everything depends upon who returns their filled-in ballot.

So, if Japanese-Americans, women proud of the advances their gender has made and union members return their ballots, Hanabusa will win.

If voters of a Republican hue, angry at the way Hawaii unions have given us “furlough Fridays” and the nation’s shortest school year, upset by Obama and the Democratic congressional majority’s free-spending ways, return theirs, Djou may give the national congressional GOP that rarest of gifts: a Republican vote from Hawaii.

Or if haoles, independents drawn to a mite left of the political center (but not too far), Democrats who feel Case was ill-treated during his 2006 primary challenge of Sen. Dan Akaka, and the many who recognize Case’s name from two statewide contests and two terms in Congress over the past eight years send in their ballots, then citizen Case goes back to Washington.

So, to win, a candidate must get out his or her vote. With a mail-in election, that will be exponentially harder than it is in a normal election. Voters don’t know this drill. Neither do the candidates, nor those who organize their campaigns.

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