There isn’t usually much suspense when it comes to running as a Democrat in Hawaii. Sixty percent of Aloha State voters are registered with the party, but in this month’s special election to replace outgoing Democratic Congressman Neil Abercrombie, Republican candidate Charles Djou is leading in the polls and an intraparty feud may be to blame.
Neal Milner of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Hawaii says, “in a district that’s normally very heavily democratic and probably still is in terms of overall numbers, the republican right now has the inside track because although estimating he’s getting 35-36 percent of the vote, it may be enough to carry the election.”
The two Democratic candidates are State Senator Colleen Hanabusa, the first female leader of the Hawaii legislature and former U.S. Representative Ed Case, who claims he is more experienced for the job. They are essentially splitting the democratic vote, yet both insist on staying in the race and focusing attacks on each other.
Their rival, Republican Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, does not have a lot of name recognition but could win because the two Democrats have split the vote. If Djou wins this special election, he’ll be the first Republican Congressman to represent Hawaii in two decades.
Djou credits his lead in the polls to discontent with status quo saying, ” I think even here in Hawaii my message of fiscal responsibility and government accountability is resonating. People understand that congress is taking this nation in the wrong direction and that’s why we’re winning this race.”
Experts say there is only so much the Democratic National Party can do to help. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has all but given up on the May 22nd contest with Chairman Chris Van Hollen stating, “maybe one of the democrats will emerge but we’re focused on November when it’s a one on one battle rather than two democrats splitting the vote.”
Fox News Contributor Susan Estrich says the fate of the Democratic party in this election has essentially been determined, “neither of them said chicken and got out of the race, so now the party in effect has said chicken, and we’re going to see a republican congressman.”
In what was Barack Obama’s home district, an endorsement by the president could go a long way to ensure a Democratic win, but he is not expected to pick sides.
However, the president is asking Hawaii voters to choose a Democrat to fill Hawaii’s vacant congressional seat. Obama’s name appears on an e-mail sent today by a group run by the Democratic National Committee. In the message, Obama says there are two “outstanding Democrats” running for the post, but he did not endorse either candidate.
This move could likely lead to a Republican victory. Yet most believe Charles Djou’s tenure on Capitol Hill will be brief, as he will have to run again in six months against a single democratic candidate, noting the state of Hawaii is as blue as they come.
Fox News’ Nicole Busch contributed to this report.