Making A Case For Hanabusa

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - May 12, 2010

Washington called last week. Reporters from the blog Politico and from The Washington Post and The Hill: The Newspaper of Capitol Hill were asking whether state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa was dropping out of the special election race for the 1st Congressional District seat.

“Two Democrats in the race make Republican Charles Djou a sure winner,” they argued. “Look at the polls. Ward Research in Honolulu has it 36 percent for Djou, 28 for Ed Case, and 22 for Hanabusa. A Harstad poll taken just two days before has it 36 Djou, 34 Case and 20 for Hanabusa.

“She has to drop out. It will be a slap in the face of President Obama if a Republican wins that seat.”

Wrong, for a number of reasons. First of all, Barack Obama is not running in the special election for the 1st Congressional District seat. The last time he did run for anything in Hawaii - president - he received 74 percent of the vote. A year later, one poll showed 75 percent of Hawaii’s residents approving of the job he was doing as president.


Secondly, an important election takes place Nov. 2 for the full two-year term. Then congressman or candidate Djou will be meeting one Democrat on the General Election ballot - perhaps congressman or candidate Case, perhaps congresswoman or candidate Hanabusa.

Now I’m no mathematician, but by my calculation in the four published polls run since January 2010, the combined Democratic vote of Case and Hanabusa led Djou’s by 29 percent in January and by 21, 18 and 14 percent in April. To be sure, Djou is gaining ground, but so is that most persistent of candidates “Don’t know/Undecided.”

In the Ward Research poll, old Don’t Know/Undecided stood at 13 percent - most of which, I would argue, will go to one or both of the Democrats. Add the margin of error of 5.6 percent on a poll of 349 1st District voters, and I believe there’s a mathematical possibility that Hanabusa could win it and an even greater possibility that Case could - even with two donkeys in the hunt.

The question, I guess, is “Which of those donkeys hunts?” In both the meetings I watched among the three candidates on Insights on PBS Hawaii and Hawaii News Now’s May 3 debate, I would give an edge to Case. “An edge,” no more, and primarily for presentation. Hanabusa also acquitted herself well.

Djou did well too, and will continue to draw a solid 36, I think, perhaps more. It will come primarily, however, from the Tea Party crowd, for whom constant repetition of the mantra “I’ve never voted for a tax hike” suffices for every policy question from defense to education to the environment to health care to energy development - and more.

By my reckoning, that’s not where Democrats and Independents are, and Democrats and Independents both outnumber Tea Party-style Republicans in the 1st District and throughout the state.

Third, no self-respecting politician quits an election contest in which she has devoted endless hours to waving, walking, debating and orating. Nor would she do so when she has asked hundreds of supporters to canvas, wave, stuff and bundle on her behalf; she owes them her commitment to the cause. Add that she’s raised and spent bushels of money on advertising and enjoys the endorsement of Hawaii’s two United States senators and almost all of its unions, it’s hard to believe those things aren’t going to count for something on election day.

But most important, Colleen Hanabusa knows that the job’s made for her. She’s a legislator, a proud one and a good one. That’s why she’s the first woman to become president of the Hawaii State Senate, and that’s why she looks at the U.S. House of Representatives as an area that will challenge every skill she owns.

Will Hanabusa lead the ballot count on the evening of May 22? It looks like a long shot, but not so long that she should drop out of the race.

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