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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 23, 2010

Democrats shift focus to primary

 •  Djou heading to D.C.

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sandy Muroda of Honolulu and Tracie Coelho of Pearl City watch a live interview with Colleen Hanabusa.

KENT NISHIMURA | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case now will turn their attention to the September primary after finishing second and third, respectively, behind Republican Congressman-elect Charles Djou in last night's 1st Congressional District election.

Djou's special-election victory gives him Neil Abercrombie's vacated seat for the remaining seven months of the term. But 1st Congressional District voters will choose a candidate again in this fall's election season, this time for a full two-year term.

Djou, as the incumbent, will in all probability be the front-runner in September's GOP primary, while Hanabusa and Case will go head-to-head on the Democratic side.

Despite finishing third, Case said he would definitely compete in the September primary. He disagreed with suggestions from U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai'i, who endorsed Hanabusa, that national Democrats who believed Case was the better candidate against Djou had misread the campaign.

"That wasn't what the read was coming out of Washington or Hawai'i, and it certainly wasn't the read coming out of the Djou camp," Case said. "So the evidence on that is different. I would expect (Inouye) to say what he said, but that's not really what was going down. The fact is the attacks were leveled at me."


Hanabusa said she believes she was able to pull into second place ahead of Case because "we think it was the message that what we represent is Hawai'i's values. And I think people also looked very seriously at the ability to work as a (congressional) team for the betterment of Hawai'i and ... the bottom line was, people looked at who had Hawai'i in their hearts. Hawai'i is not like the rest of the nation that's just angry at everything. We have a lot of hope, and we have a lot of confidence and we have a lot of pride."

Hanabusa and her supporters said there's also anecdotal evidence suggesting that attack ads from Mainland interests that supported Case and Djou worked in her favor.

"She wasn't negative, she didn't attack Charles," said Hanabusa campaign volunteer Joan Husted. "She didn't attack Ed either. When are we going to learn in Hawai'i that negative campaigning doesn't work?"

Independent Women's Voice, a national conservative group, spent more than $200,000 on television ads critical of Case. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which at one point appeared to be leaning toward Case, spent more than $314,000 on television ads critical of Djou.

One thing's for certain neither Hanabusa nor the Democratic Party of Hawai'i will be asking Case to stay away from the primary.

"Democrats give people choices," Hanabusa said. "And I congratulate Ed's supporters as well. They worked hard."

Hanabusa said she won't appeal to Case supporters that they should vote for her because she finished higher than he did.

"We would like to think that the reason why they would vote for me is because of my message ... and we prove to them that we're the better candidate, not simply because we were able to finish second," she said. "I think the message is more that we represent Democratic values better and that we would like to have their support. I want to win their support on the merits of the arguments versus just simply because we finished second."

Dante Carpenter, interim statewide Democratic Party chairman, said he doesn't expect local Democrats to ask anyone to step out of this fall's 1st Congressional District election. "Our party's such that we don't ask them to step out; we allow them do their own thing."

Some Hanabusa supporters, however, believe Case shouldn't participate in the fall campaign. They noted that after the slew of polls showing Hanabusa placing third, some suggested she should step away from the campaign because supporters of Democrats were split between her and Case.

"It's a proven fact now, Ed Case should have stepped out of the race," said Toni Lee, a grassroots coordinator for the Hanabusa campaign. "If he'd stepped out of the race, it would still be a Democratic seat. The handwriting's on the wall."


The crowd of more than 150 supporters at Hanabusa's campaign headquarters on Ward Avenue treated the results as if their candidate had won, rather than as a loss to a Republican after Demo-crats had held the seat for two decades.

Hanabusa said the second-place finish was a moral victory for her campaign volunteers, who had to endure talk that she should remove herself as a candidate after finishing third in pre-election opinion polls.

As for losing the seat to Republicans, Hanabusa said "if you're going to lose a seat, it's for a very short period of time. Not to take anything away from Charles, but he's going to have to come back and fight very hard for this seat.

"Let's not forget, 60 percent of the vote is still Democrat and it's going to be a Democrat facing off against a Republican in November."

Advertiser Staff writer Derrick DePledge contributed to this report. Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8082.