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National Democrats growing increasingly worried about Hawaii special election

The resignation of Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) has created a special election problem for his party. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Democrats are growing increasingly concerned that the presence of two well-known candidates in an all-party special election in Hawaii next month will badly jeopardize their chances of holding the seat and are weighing the options available to them to thin the field.

White House political Director Patrick Gaspard has been active in expressing concerns that in a low-turnout special election, which is set for May 22, former Rep. Ed Case and state Senate president Colleen Hanabusa could split the Democratic vote enough to allow Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) to win. Under Hawaii special election rules, all candidates -- regardless of party affiliation -- run on a single ballot.

(Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, held the seat easily for two decades before resigning earlier this year to run for governor.)

While the White House -- and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- have stopped short of endorsing in President Barack Obama's home state, insiders say they are convinced that the only way to win is with a single Democratic candidate.

And, it's becoming increasingly clear that most -- though not all -- Democratic strategists believe Case is that candidate due to his ability to pull enough independent and Republican votes to beat Djou in a head-to-head matchup.

An ad being sponsored by the DCCC, which hits Djou for his record on job creation, ends with the narrator saying that "Hawaii needs a Congressman on our side." That's CongressMAN not CongressWOMAN. And, no, that's not by accident -- nothing ever is in a 30-second television ad. (For the record, DCCC officials insist nothing should be read into the "congressman" message.)

The problem for national Democrats is that Case is roundly loathed by the Hawaii party establishment. Why? In 2006, Case decided to challenge Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary -- a no-no in the go-along-to-get-along, wait-your-turn politics of the Aloha State.

Both Akaka and Inouye are behind Hanabusa -- Inouye's Hawaii-based chief of staff is helping her in the special election -- and don't appear to be budging.

And, the perceived favoritism for Case among some national Democrats is already rankling some interest groups. The Asian American Action Fund released a statement today saying that it is "unseemly for party officials to step into a special election with more than one Democrat" and noted that nearly six in ten residents of the 1st district are of Asian Pacific descent.

The White House and DCCC are in an extremely difficult spot. Initiating a top-down endorsement isn't ideal in an outsider political environment like this one -- particularly with the state's two U.S. Senators lined up on the other side -- but losing a special election in a district that went for President Barack Obama with 70 percent in 2008 would add to a negative national narrative for Democrats heading into the fall.

Looming over all of the thinking about Hawaii is what happened in the Massachusetts Senate special election in January. The national party swooped in to try to save state Attorney General Martha Coakley's candidacy in the final weeks of the campaign but it was too little, too late.

National Democrats clearly want to avoid a repeat of that situation. But the politics of Hawaii -- and of Case and Hanabusa particularly -- are complicated. Can Democrats find a way to victory?

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 8, 2010; 5:01 PM ET
Categories:  House , White House  
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This election, on it's face, creates no special problem for Democrats. But the fact that Case & Hanabusa are both running as Democrats makes it competitive enough for any 3 of them to win. Djou will get out the vote of Republicans and that vote will be very strong. Case will appeal to some moderate democrats and to independents. Hanabusa, with Inouye's endorsement and her asian american descent will attract a major portion of the Democratic base support. I don't think Case has will be able to motivate his get out the vote effort it will take from his voters to win the election. Inouye can always get out the vote there in Hawii and with the national landscape, Djou will be able to motivate his people to come and vote in droves. It could be that Djou will win as Hanabusa and Case will divide the vote. My best guess is that Djou wins the seat on voter turnout and democratic division.

Posted by: reason5 | April 9, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Some politicians DO create jobs. Rep Dicks (D-WA) created two jobs - one for each of his sons. Each was appointed (one by the guv, one by a county) to head groups to spend the federal money daddy got earmarked.

What Hawaii (and us all) need is honesty in government. We need politicians who recognize government is too big (by over half), too inefficient, too coercive, and has too much control over our lives.

Posted by: Conservative2008 | April 9, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

You are all dumb; politicians do not "create jobs", unless you count the recent hiring of census workers or additions of their brothers-in-laws etc. to the federal payrolls. They may steer money but that may or may not be seed money. Sometimes just good old fashion pork.

Posted by: tichy1 | April 9, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

It was grossly inconsiderate of Abercrombie to resign before the passage of the health bill with Obama and the party in a do-or-die situation. It has been equally inconsiderate of Akaka and Inouye to hang on to their glory posts rather than plan for a responsible succession. Here in Hawaii we have become so dependent on Inouye's earmarks that we'll be hung out to dry no matter who gets in now.

That said, the cultural tradition here of respect for elders is so strong that none of the three will be held publicly accountable. Except perhaps Abercrombie, whose white ethnicity works against him despite his longevity in the representative slot; he waited about a decade too long to run for governor and will probably lose.

National Democrats are clueless if they think open interference on Case's behalf will help. If they want to win, they should pick Hanabusa. Her support from Akaka, Inouye, and the unions will turn out the vote. Those of us here who think liberally and vote independently don't want to vote for Case because he seems like a Republican wearing a Democratic nametag. And those of us who are diehard Democratic liberals will vote for whoever's got strongest local liberal consciousness, not whoever's the pick of the national party.

Posted by: hoddyhoo | April 9, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse


Your not a very bright person are you? No Dems have created any jobs? Wow and im sure you can back this up? Of course not, just more GOP wishing. So show me ANY report that says nobody has gotten a job since Jan 09. Bet you cant, and on election rigging, in recent memory the only election that was rigged was the 2000 presidential election, where Gore had more popular votes than Bush, but Bush was handed the Presidency thanks to the Supreme Court not the voters.

Posted by: rharring | April 9, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"Dwight, I think that would be part of the definition of a recession.
As you have limited your bold statement to "Since Obama," and he took office 16 months into the Bush recession, and unemployment is a lagging indicator, etc. well, West-By-God-Virginia, one could say that Obama has only been able to create jobs as fast as the Bush economy lost them.
Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 9, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse "

no, you are wrong...
with his healthcare obsession he has let the rest of America suffer...
his followers are manipulating the figures so that they won't report if it reaches 10% or more...
America is living a lie...
I choose not to be a part of it...
the only people getting rich off the goverment are the dems, no one else...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 9, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

It's more than likely that the Republican will wind up no more than second in the field of three and perhaps even third. Yes, the Democratic vote will be split but the potential Republican vote will be too small to capitalize.

Posted by: ram9478 | April 9, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse


term limits. almost 80% of americans are in favor of term limits.


Eliminate the ruling aristocracy.

The USA doesn't have a royal class (or shouldn't at least)

Posted by: docwhocuts | April 9, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Guess the Dems haven't figured out how to rig the election yet! That's why they're worried.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | April 9, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Hawaii would not be in this predicament if Abercrombie hadn't resigned. I don't know why after so many terms in the U.S. House, he'd give up his seat to run for governor at his age. He was a personal friend of President Obamna's father when they were both at the University of Hawaii, so why wouldn't he stay in office to help his friend's son with his agenda?

It took guts on the part of Case to run against Akaka. Case realizes that both Senators from Hawaii are up in years and have seniority. Until Congress changes the seniority rules, Case realized it was time for someone younger to start the seniority process because if something were to happen to both Akaka and Inouye, Hawaii would be the big loser. It's unfortunate that Inouye and Akaka couldn't see it that it was in the best interests of the state to have a younger Senator.

The best case scenario would be for Inouye to realize he needs to retire and broker a deal with Case and Hanbusa - one will get the U.S. House and one will get his seat.

Posted by: Nevadaandy | April 9, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

what a laugh. the corner gives me heck about staying on topic. lololololol!!!! as he continues to disregard CC's instructions about double spacing, and flooding. and I did talk about the Hawaii story, after agreeing with DDAWD about his concerns about you hijacking this comment board all the time. you must be so busy double spacing that you don't completely read others posts.

Posted by: katem1 | April 9, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Dwight, I think that would be part of the definition of a recession.

As you have limited your bold statement to "Since Obama," and he took office 16 months into the Bush recession, and unemployment is a lagging indicator, etc. well, West-By-God-Virginia, one could say that Obama has only been able to create jobs as fast as the Bush economy lost them.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 9, 2010 6:31 AM | Report abuse

since obama no dem has created any job...
the dems have lost jobs...

Posted by: DwightCollins | April 9, 2010 6:05 AM | Report abuse

It should not be overlooked by mainland analysts that this is a postal mail election. "Turnout" may top 90%. Ballots go out three weeks before they are due. The fact that "White House political Director Patrick Gaspard has been active in expressing concerns" about a low-turnout special election may show that mainlanders are out of touch with reality on the ground.

Djou cried "foul" about the DCCC ads b/c they were from the "mainland". Djou likes to describe himself as "independent" of his party label, as does Case. Hanabusa does not run from her party affiliation. The State D Committee does not want the DCCC to take sides. There will be a lot to dissect here on May 23.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 9, 2010 5:01 AM | Report abuse

I cant imagine Colleen Hanabusa losing, she is well liked in Honolulu, Oahu at large really. One would presume she is a cinch for the first district.

That said Chris Cillizza might be on to something, and even with a CPVI of D+11, a low turnout combined with two democrats on the ballot could just be what pushes the 1st congressional red. With a big "could."

Its one to watch for sure.

Posted by: Homunculus | April 9, 2010 1:17 AM | Report abuse

37th, if you were respectful of other posters and didn't try to stifle discussion and didn't flood these threads, then people would discuss things with you.

But you won't, so no one gives a f*ck what you've got to say. Not one bit, you piece of sh*t clown.

Posted by: DDAWD | April 8, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Sure, it's a conversation if you all get everyone to feel superior - and smear entire group of people as being racist.

Sure you loved the McDonnell threat - because you all were able to say, it's not about one proclamation, it's not about one man - it's about smearing entire group of people.

AND these people are so BAD - they do not deserve to express their voices - or even vote for that much - their one view that you believe they have renders them completely illegitimate.

Sure you enjoyed that threat.


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Bondosan. I'm not trying to shut you down, but 37th is one of the few posters who will light up every thread with the same post, and then litter us with repeat posts (some from days ago) throughout the day. It doesn't put you in control of the thread, and it does makes you look small.

The McDonnell thread is awesome. There's some joke posting and trolling, but there were also a lot of different voices coming at the story from a lot of directions. The thread really percolated. And part of the fun was no one person was flooding the board.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 8, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Bondosan, we tried this already. It's pretty clear he doesn't want to have a conversation. He just wants to disrupt it.

Posted by: DDAWD | April 8, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse


As you know, I find you to be a bit of a joke.

Nonetheless, your ee cummings comment did make me laugh.

How about this: nobody is trying to stop you from posting your somewhat incoherent thoughts. However, I think everyone agrees that repeating the SAME posts repeatedly (or as my three-year-old daughter would say: "again 'n' again 'n' again 'n' again 'n' again 'n' again...." ) is nothing but annoying and disruptive.

So why not make your point(s) clearly and concisely, and not spend all of your time spamming the board?

As a bonus, learning how to self-edit will really come in handy once you get in to high school.

Posted by: Bondosan | April 8, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

It would serve O bama right if his "home" state elected a republican.

Posted by: newagent99 | April 8, 2010 5:57 PM

Since when is Kenya a state?

Posted by: SuzyCcup | April 8, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are such liars. Watch this video where Debbie Wasserman Schultz states at a townhall meeting on 4/5 that the health care bill does not require anyone to purchase insurance. What a laugh.

Posted by: SuzyCcup | April 8, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Djou is the perfect candidate for Hawaii. He's got a squeaky clean record. He's also been out among his constituents for months while the DCCC was ignoring the election. Same thing happened here in Mass (with Scott Brown) and we all saw how that ended.

I was in Hawaii last November and the people on Oahu, especially in the 1st Congressional District, didn't seem that thrilled with obama. I don't think anything obama would say could help Case. The DCCC ad and its fabrications shows just how desperate the dems are. I believe Djou will win this one.

Posted by: SuzyCcup | April 8, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

This IS a very legit story in Hawaii. Thanks for the knowledge.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | April 8, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse


Victims of Secret Extrajudicial Homeland Fusion Center Torture Demand:


VIC LIVINGSTON REPORTS: "Heinous directed energy weapon "no-touch" microwave torture on extrajudicially 'targeted' American citizens."


See latest comments:


Posted by: scrivener50 | April 8, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse


did someone get banned - ?

Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Despite banning several key stooges, idiocy persists at The Fix. But this a liberal blog.

Carry on!

Vast improvement CC.

I predict that tomorrow without dribbl, your number of posts will drop by half but your relative intellect will triple.

A good trade.

Posted by: Moonbat | April 8, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

This district in Hawaii is not really the issue -

Obama won this district.

The issue is the districts which McCain won, yet have a democratic Congressman.


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I love that picture.
The more you look at it,
the funnier it gets.

Posted by: shrink2 | April 8, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

From the "Honolulu Advertiser":
One local Democratic strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hanabusa may be in better position than Case to launch a get-out-the-vote operation in the all-mail special election because of her support among unions and traditional Democrats.

Case has higher name recognition, but may not be able to raise as much campaign money as Hanabusa or have the ability to deploy as much grassroots help without union support, the strategist said. Hanabusa's campaign said in a news release last night it had raised more than $450,000 in the last quarter.
If Hanabusa has both US Senators and the unions but Case has the DNC Hanabusa has more than Case. Support from the mainland is not always welcome in our Pacific paradise.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 8, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse


The topic is Hawaii, not the corner, which really is a circle.



Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse


do you have any comments on ee cummings ?



Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

It would serve O bama right if his "home" state elected a republican.
Remember when Obama promised to get the troops out of Iraq by March 31, 2008?

Posted by: newagent99 | April 8, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I think you are overstating the concerns of the head of the Hawaiian Dems. Don't both parties try to roil up their base? But I think your title is somewhat misleading cause no Dems is actually quoted as saying that. Just the head guy showing typical "we have to rally the base" jitters.

Posted by: katem1 | April 8, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

thanks Chris, it's hard to ignore the corner all the time, especially when like DDAWD says, he floods the comments, and makes it hard to read everyone elses cause it so long. It's good that him and Zouk seem to like each other, they can keep each other occupied while the rest of us try to debate the pros and cons of your FIX.

Posted by: katem1 | April 8, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

thanks Chris, it's hard to ignore the corner all the time, especially when like DDAWD says, he floods the comments, and makes it hard to read everyone elses cause it so long. It's good that him and Zouk seem to like each other, they can keep each other occupied while the rest of us try to debate the pros and cons of your FIX.

Posted by: katem1 | April 8, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse


Can we do a little less hitting of the "return" key and a little more single spacing?


Posted by: Chris_Cillizza | April 8, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I had to go to google images to see what Case, Hanabusa and Djou looked like. You didn't have a snap of them?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 8, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse


you are trying to violate one's right to Freedom of Speech - that is a civil rights violation.

All you want is everyone to agree with you -

You do not have tolerance for opposing views.


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse


Just silence the opposition, right ??

Nothing about the First Amendment ??

If you disagree, state your opinion -

If you don't like the speech, the answer is more speech, not less.

Posted by: 37thand0street | April 8, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Chris, can you do something about that 37th+O guy, please? No warnings. He isn't going to listen. He just floods every single page. You know this.


Posted by: DDAWD | April 8, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

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