By B.J. Reyes
Is Republican Charles Djou making inroads in solidly Democratic Hawaii?
The question will be answered on May 22, when voters decide the special election to fill Neil Abercrombie‘s seat, but one outside observer thinks the GOP City Councilman may have a shot against the two prominent Democrats in the winner-take-all format.
The Cook Political Report, an independent Washington-based election analysis group, today changed its rating of the Hawaii congressional race to “Toss up”, Democratic, from “Lean” Democratic.
Ratings include “Likely,” meaning the race is not competitive; “Lean,” competitive but one party has an advantage; and “Toss-up,” very competitive.
In January, the Report had pegged the race as “Lean” Democratic.
According to the Cook Political Report:
As we noted in last week’s Hawaii rundown, the unique winner-take-all rules of the all-mail special election race to fill the seat of gubernatorial candidate Rep. Neil Abercrombie (HI-01) create a low hurdle for Republican Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou to clear in a race against two Democrats. Now, there is genuine concern among Democrats that while Djou is up on air with appealing intro ads that don’t mention his party affiliation, neither state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa nor former Rep. Ed Case are running great campaigns. Case may enjoy an early lead, but he also has the least money. Furthermore, Democratic Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka will do all they can to ensure Hanabusa overtakes Case, their longstanding rival.
Were Djou to shoot the gap and win – possibly with as little as 35 to 40 percent of the vote – he would be the underdog to hold this seat for the GOP in the more normal November election. But the winner-take-all special election has the makings of a genuinely competitive three-way race, and President Obama’s 70 percent share of the vote here – this is his native seat – belies this district’s willingness to vote for the right kind of Republican. Hawaii voters will mail in ballots between April 30th and May 22nd, and this seat joins the May 18th special election in PA-12 in the Toss Up column.
While some pundits have tried to peg Djou as the next Scott Brown, Democratic strategists are keeping a close watch on Hawaii to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.
“This is a Democratic district and we’ll work to make sure it stays as such,” said Andy Stone, western regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The DCCC has been keeping a close eye on the race (just take a look at the press release section of its Web site and search “Djou”).
“Charles Djou may be avoiding identifying himself as a Republican in his TV ad,” Stone added, “but given his close association with Washington Republicans, who came to Hawaii to visit him, and his record of supporting corporate special interests over the needs of families in Hawaii, it’s clear where Djou stands.”
A total of 14 candidates met the deadline to file the required paperwork to run in the special election. The complete list from the Office of Elections is HERE.