This week, Neil Abercrombie officially stepped down as Hawaii’s 1st District Representative after nearly two decades on the job and filed nomination papers for Governor. A special election to replace him is tentatively slated for May 22 (for updated info visit hawaii.gov/elections).
Three candidates–two Democrats and one Republican—have entered the race. The winner will serve out the remainder of Abercrombie’s term, which expires at the end of this year. Here’s a look at the contenders:
Name: Ed Case
Current job: Attorney
Political profile: Though he’s been out of public office for almost half a decade, Case—whose cousin is AOL founder and Maui Land & Pineapple majority shareholder Steve Case—has a lengthy political resume. He served eight years in the state House including a run as Majority Leader, and another three years in the U.S. House. In 2006, he challenged Sen. Dan Akaka in the primary and lost, and has been in the private sector since. While in Washington, Case was a member of the centrist “Blue Dog” coalition, which takes conservative positions on various issues, mostly economic. In the ’06 race against Akaka, Case said he would have voted in favor of the 2002 Iraq War Resolution had he been in Congress (Akaka was one of only 23 Senators to oppose it), and in 2005 Case voted to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. But Case has staked out some liberal positions as well. In 1997, he voted against HB117, a bill that opened the door for a Hawaii constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. (The issue surfaced again during Case’s 2004 U.S. House race against rabid same-sex marriage opponent Mike Gabbard.) And as a U.S. Congressman, Case spearheaded HR2376, also known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Refuge Act, which sought to create a large Pacific marine sanctuary (a goal that was later realized when President George W. Bush, in a rare moment of environmental cognizance, issued an executive decree).
Notable quote(s): “[Abercrombie’s] resignation…leaves us with a huge puka in our Congressional delegation…When you lose one of four members of a delegation, you need to fill that puka right away.” (From a video message regarding the special election)
Campaign Web site: www.edcase.com
Name: Charles Djou
Current job: Honolulu City Councilmember
Political profile: Despite stints in the state House and as Vice Chair of the Hawaii GOP, Djou was a relative unknown outside Oahu until recently. Now, he’s grabbing national headlines as a potential Aloha State version of Scott Brown, the Republican Senator from Massachusetts who was elected in January to replace Ted Kennedy. Everyone from right-wing bloggers to Karl Rove has touted Djou as another chance to throw a wrench in the Dems’ agenda. (A February 1 dispatch from the conservative National Review Online notes that “[a] Republican winning a House race in Hawaii is about as likely as…well, a Republican winning a Senate seat in Massachusetts, and we know how that turned out.”) Djou takes pains to paint himself as an “independent voice” who doesn’t answer to “anyone or any group.” At the same time, he’s clearly trumpeting his small-government credentials—a big red national debt ticker is prominently displayed on his campaign site, and he boasts that he’s “never voted for a tax increase.”
Notable quote(s): “I wish Abercrombie well with his future. Hawaii voters now have a special election and we can tell Congress to change course.” (From a February 28 Twitter post)
Campaign Web site: www.djou.com
Name: Colleen Hanabusa
Current job: President of the state Senate
Political profile: A state Senator since 1998, Hanabusa is considered the most liberal candidate in the race, but has earned praise from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. (In 2006, an election year, Republican state Sen. Fred Hemmings told the Honolulu Advertiser she was “erudite” and “fairly even-handed,” high praise in this era of polarized partisanship.) Yet Hanabusa’s record on key progressive issues is far from spotless. In 2008, the state Sierra Club gave her a pedestrian 57 out of 100 environmental rating (by comparison, her Senate colleague J. Kalani English received a rating of 85). And last year she voted to table same-sex civil union bill HB444, though she supported a new version of the bill this year that was ultimately quashed by the House. This isn’t Hanabusa’s first go at national office—she ran unsuccessfully (in a special election against Case, coincidentally) for the 2nd District Congressional seat in 2003, and again in 2006 when she lost in the primary to Rep. Mazie Hirono.
Notable quote: “For the moment, there is real concern that we must make the choice between bankrolling a special election we cannot afford and doing without representation in Congress for a year.” (From a campaign statement)
Campaign Web site: www.hanabusaforhawaii.com