“Djou, Djou, Djou, Djou!” Gov. Linda Lingle set off a rallying cry from more the Hawaii GOP Headquarters where more than 300 supporters of GOP Congressional Candidate Charles Djou gathered to celebrate his victory with nearly 40 percent of the special election vote.
Djou, a city council member, opposed two powerful and well-connected Democrats in President Barack Obama’s home Congressional District.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former Congressman Ed Case (2002-2007), challenged Djou in the 3-way race after Neil Abercrombie retired to run for Hawaii governor.
Over the last 5 generations, Democrats have dominated Hawaii politics. This is the first time a Republican has been in Congress representing Hawaii in 20 years.
Introduced by both Gov. Lingle and Pat Saiki, the last GOP Congressmember from Hawaii to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, Djou said excitedly: “The people of Hawaii have spoken!”
Standing with his wife Stacey and his three children, Djou rallied the crowd with his victory speech, but also stressed that it isn’t time to rest. He equated his election as a “temporary lease with an option to buy” rather than a permanent position given to him permanently by the people of Hawaii. Like Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Djou stressed that the congressional seat is not owned by the Democrats, by the unions, or any other special interest – it belongs to the people. He also spoke about being the son of immigrants from China and Thailand.
Djou had been leading in the polls in the final days of the election with Case, a Blue Dog Democrat, showing as a close second and Hanabusa as a distant third.
But the final results showed that Hanabusa had actually pulled ahead of Case. She is heavily endorsed by Hawaii’s political godfather, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, the head of the powerful U.S. Senate appropriations committee, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, and many other political insiders, including the heads of virtually every union in the state.
The final numbers showed Djou had 39.5 percent, Hanabusa had 30.8 percent, and Case had 27.6 percent.
There were 317,337 registered voters in the 1st Congressional District. Neither Case nor Hanabusa live in the district, but federal law allows this. There were a total of 170,312 votes cast. Djou received more than 67,000, Hanabusa had 52,000 and Case had 47,000. The rest of the votes were shared between 11 other lesser known candidates. This was Hawaii’s first use of all mail in ballots for a major election. Previously special election council district ballots used the mail in process. It was also the fastest the state has ever released election results, coming only minutes after the official close of accepting ballots.
When Abercrombie retired from his seat after 20 years to run for governor, pollsters and pundits claimed Djou was in third place. Both major dailies endorsed Case for the election. Voters in the district received robo calls from President Barack Obama, Senator Daniel Inouye, Governor Linda Lingle and other prominent political leaders. The tea party movement has had an impact nationally and in Hawaii, one of the bluest states, and encouraged frustrated individuals, many of whom have never been involved in politics or a campaign before, to get involved in Djou’s campaign. Mainland organizations on both sides rallied behind their favorite candidates.
Democrats say they are confident they can get back the seat in November. Chris Van Hollen, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Washington reporters: “We’re looking at November in Hawaii,” saying he could “confidently predict that the district’s Democratic candidate in November will get a majority of the vote.”
Saiki said it amazed her that Djou withstood all of the slings and arrows thrown at him by the “very best” including President Barack Obama, the state’s two U.S. Senators, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She also referenced the $300,000 worth of “negative” campaign ads run against Djou in the final weeks.
The big issue now is when Djou will be seated as Hawaii’s 1st congressional district has not had representation for 4 months.
Djou must run for office again in November.
Saiki offered a “word of caution” saying the November election is right around the corner. “This power grab that they are trying cannot succeed. We must elect Charles again.”
Reach Hawaii Reporter editor Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com