Democratic and Republican leaders are preparing for a rematch for a Hawaii congressional seat this fall after a GOP candidate won a special election in President Barack Obama's native state Saturday.
Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, won the race with 39% of the vote to become the first Republican to represent Hawaii in Washington in 20 years. Trailing him were two Democrats: state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, with 31%, and former Congressman Ed Case, with 28%.
Mr. Djou will fill the seat held by Neil Abercrombie, who resigned this year to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. The Republican must defend his seat in a regular election in November.
The win nudges Republicans toward the party's goal of winning the more than three-dozen seats it needs to retake Congress. It also ends the GOP's losing streak in competitive House special elections at six.
Mr. Djou's victory was aided by Hawaii's unusual special-election rules, in which the top vote-getter wins without a primary or runoff, and a feud between the two Democrats who split the liberal vote.
Democratic leaders cited those circumstances in saying they were optimistic about retaking the seat in November, after a primary that will produce one candidate from the party.
"Democrats got 60% of the vote in that race last night," said Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
"In the November election, it will be one Democrat against one Republican, and we feel very, very confident about winning that race," he said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said political observers shouldn't dismiss the significance of the Hawaii vote, saying Mr. Djou ran a grassroots campaign that focused on local issues. "It is a significant win," he said, also on the ABC show. "It is the birthplace of the president of the United States."
Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the race had national significance. "The voters of Hawaii reaffirmed that middle-class families are looking for fresh, new leaders who will take this country in a new direction and serve as a check and balance to Washington Democrats' reckless and unpopular policies," he said in a statement.
The Hawaii race was unlike others in recent state history. Campaigns there are usually congenial and low-key; candidates spend a significant amount of time standing on sidewalks, where they hold campaigns signs and wave to motorists.
The Democratic rivalry pitting Mr. Case against Ms. Hanabusa made this election different. Ms. Hanabusa was a favorite of the state's Democratic establishment, earning endorsements from the state's U.S. senators. Mr. Case was not, having upset party leaders by running against Sen. Daniel Akaka in the 2006 primary. For the special election, he positioned himself as a moderate.
The two Democrats trained their attacks on each other and on Mr. Djou, a 39-year-old who spent the last decade on Honolulu's city council and in Hawaii's legislature. Mr. Djou, whose last name is a French take on a Chinese name, ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism.
Political scientists expectthat Mr. Djou will have a tougher time in the regular election, but that his youth, his reputation as a social moderate and status as an incumbent will aid him in November.
source : The Wall Street Journal