May 23rd, 2010
09:00 AM ET
13 years ago

Intra-party Democratic feuding gives GOP rare Hawaii victory

(CNN) - Republican Charles Djou took advantage of an intra-party fight among Democrats to snatch a House seat that Democrats had held for 20 years in Hawaii.

Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, won 67,274 votes - or 39.5 percent of those cast.

The special election was for the state's 1st congressional district, which opened up after 10-term Democratic lawmaker Rep. Neil Abercrombie stepped down earlier this year to concentrate full-time on his bid for Hawaii governor.

The seat includes Honolulu and some surrounding suburbs. President Barack Obama, who spent parts of his childhood in the district, won 70 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election.

But there were two Democratic candidates on the ballot in this election and recent polls indicate they were splitting the vote.

The results, posted on the state's Office of Elections website late Saturday, proved likewise:

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, considered the more liberal candidate, won 52,445 or 30.8 percent of the votes. She had been in third place in recent polls, but she refused to step aside.

Former Rep. Ed Case, considered the more moderate candidate, garnered 47,012 or 27.6 percent.

The special election was a winner-take-all contest, with only a plurality needed for victory.

National Democratic Party organizations favored Case but did not formally endorse either of their party's candidates.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ran ads that criticized Djou. But earlier this month, after it was clear neither candidate would drop out, the DCCC stopped spending any more money or time on the race.

Djou will have to defend the seat come November, and national Democrats are saving their firepower for that contest, when only one Democrat will be on the ballot.

"We're looking at November in Hawaii," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the DCCC chairman, told reporters Thursday. "I think you all know the situation, and it's important that people do understand the unique circumstances of a special election in Hawaii - you don't have a primary. You have, in this case, three candidates - two Democrats and one Republican. I can confidently predict that the Democrats together will get a majority of the vote. Just like the Democratic candidate in November will get a majority of the vote."

But a win for Djou in the special election was seen as a symbolic victory for the GOP.

"The fact that we have an opportunity to win in President Obama's childhood district where he received 70 percent of the vote in '08, speaks to the quality of Charles Djou's candidacy and the level of Republican voter
intensity across the country," Ken Spain, NRCC communications director, said last week.

- CNN's Mark Preston and Shannon Travis contributed to this story.

Filed under: 2010 • GOP • Hawaii
soundoff (4 Responses)

    This is another good example of you Democrats going down. GOODBYE!!!

    May 23, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. MikeH

    Not to worry. Charles will be booted out in November, he won't be able to do much RepubliKlan-style damage to Hawaii.

    On the other hand, the Hawaiian Democrats had best get their house in order, this tiff suggests a political machine is running amok.

    May 23, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. Lori

    Isn't Hawaii like Alaska, nobody really cares.

    May 23, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. Ken, AZ

    Ken Spain, get real. 58.4% of the voters rejected your candidate. Therefore, a GOP victory can hardly be considered a bellweather of things to come.

    May 23, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |