The Race Isn’t Over For Djou

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - June 09, 2010
U.S. Rep. Charles Djou

It would be misleading to say that Ed Case’s departure from the 1st Congressional District race was a shock and surprise. Most observers saw the proverbial writing on the wall when Case ran a close third to Colleen Hanabusa’s second in the recent special election.

Now the stage is set for a general election contest that has all the attributes of a classic race featuring candidates who represent clear and absolute differences.

With Case out, all the spin has been spun. This upcoming general election will not require the interpretation of split votes, special elections or mail-in ballots. Voters will have a defined choice via a traditional election with both candidates garnering seemingly full support of their respective parties and loyal organizations.

Actually, if Republican Charles Djou, who ran first in that race over Hanabusa and Case, is to retain his seat in November, Hanabusa is the preferred candidate. Conversely, if Djou is to retain his seat in November, Hanabusa is the last candidate he would want to face.

Djou’s advantage in squaring off against Hanabusa is the profound political delineation between them. Djou is a fiscal conservative first and perhaps a bit more lenient on some social issues (see his “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” vote). Hanabusa is a true progressive liberal who supports the traditional Democratic Party line.

Voters will not really have to struggle in deciding which candidate to support. This plays into Djou’s favor. Yes, there is an anti-Obama/Pelosi/Reid sentiment that exists in Hawaii. The controversial policies of the Obama administration have touched us locally. Some locals who voted for “change” in 2008 are looking for “change” again in 2010, even if it means voting for a Republican for the first time.

However, Djou supporters cannot ignore the power and influence of U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye and the Democrat machine, and Hanabusa is the sole beneficiary of all its might.

Yes, there may be unrest in the political firmament, but the foundation of the Democratic Party has not been compromised. A relentless union mobilization will be under way to elect Democratic candidates, and the top three races - gubernatorial, mayoral and congressional - are the top priorities of the status quo. Additionally, if there is a palpable sense that Democrats indeed are in trouble, watch for a fired-up base to fight back. Whether it’s in attack ads, boisterous rallies or an inundation of sign-waving, Democrats will band together to try to retake the Fifth Floor and Djou’s seat in Congress from the GOP.

So just as much as the Republican base has been fired up over stewarding the governor’s office and its recent congressional victory, Democrats have their own rallying points to stimulate numbers favorable to them.

The race is on in the 1st Congressional District, and it will be interesting to see how two veteran, intelligent and passionate candidates will fare now that the third wheel has fallen off the cart.

One thing is for sure - it wouldn’t be a safe bet either way.

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