HI-01: Political malpractice leads to Republican victory

A few quick thoughts on the special election in Hawaii's first Congressional district. Voting ended Saturday evening, and Republican Charles Djou won this D+11 district with 39.4 percent of the vote, because Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case won 30.8 percent and 27.6 percent, respectively.

First, this outcome makes a strong case against the "jungle primary" system for a special election. If some process had been used to select just one Democrat to face Djou, that Democrat would almost certainly have held the seat.

Second, Neil Abercrombie should have declined to run for re-election in 2008 if he was already planning to run for governor this year. We could have elected a new Democrat at that time and avoided this debacle.

Third, the White House and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were wrong to (covertly) get behind Case and try to pressure Hanabusa into dropping out. I don't mind competitive primaries, but this wasn't a primary. Hanabusa got in first and locked up local support. Case, who is too conservative for a D+11 district anyway, got in late and split the vote. The DCCC supposedly had polling that showed Case doing better than Hannabusa against Djou, but she had support from most local activists, Hawaii's two senators, and labor unions.

Republicans are crowing about picking up a House seat in a district Barack Obama won with 70 percent of the vote, but Djou will face only one Democrat in November. Tim Sahd reported for Hotline On Call, "GOPers had hoped Djou would cross the 40% threshold tonight, thus proving he had a path to victory in the fall." It appears that Hanabusa's relatively strong performance in the special gives her the edge going into the September 18 Democratic primary, but that's a long way off.

Some Republicans are claiming that Djou will hold the seat because Hawaii loves to re-elect incumbents, but Djou is only the 12th federal office-holder Hawaii has ever had, and most federal elections have not been competitive.

Final thought: I didn't realize until I checked the Hawaii Office of Elections website on Saturday that ballots and other election materials are available in four languages there. Can you guess which ones before clicking over?

Share any thoughts about the Hawaii race or its implications in this thread.

UPDATE: Nate Silver's take on this special election is worth a read.

Tags: Congress, House, HI-01, Colleen Hanabusa, Ed Case, Charles Djou, 2010 elections (all tags)

Comments

1 Comment

Open Primaries/Elections

Look, I'm sympathetic to the kvetching... but really: it seems to me a world of more options is better than forcefully moving to limit them without giving voters the chance to make a choice. That Djou "slipped through" on a plurality vote could be handled several ways, including a runoff process between top vote getters; or, as will happen, Djou facing another election shortly down the road. As it is, I think it's generally heartening that Djou, who surely broadens the GOP's generally beige makeup, represents a shakeup to political complacency generally, and on Hawaii in particular.

Yes, we are here partly because of some Dem disarray; but that, too, points to a fairly healthy internal debate which we should encourage rather than thwart: a more open process, a less "back room" selection of preferred candidates (which is also driving the Joe Sestak and Bill Halter stories after all), all strikes me as healthy and preferable. And if, on occasion, someone unexpected wins, well, we can't win them all. Nor should we, at times.

As much as I support the two party system, and one party in partciular, I think it's myopic and ultimately mistaken for Democrats to fight for fewer voter choices and less open elections. If we differ from Republicans, it seems to me, most fundamentally, we are defined by an openness and a favoring of the complicated, difficult but ultimately more rewarding kind of democracy where a wide variety of choice is possible, and a real competition of ideas can flourish. If not, I think we just set ourselves up for much of what the national Republican party struggles with now: ideologic extremes, litmus tests and general failure. The most important thing to wnning open primary elections, it seems to me, is having good ideas and the right candidates. And I'm confident, as a Democrat, that we have that... when we try.

by nycweboy1 2010-05-24 10:51AM | 0 recs

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