Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou's victory in Saturday's special election to fill one of only two Hawaii congressional seats was just about a foregone conclusion after two Democrats split the winner-take-all ticket. Djou won with 39.4 percent of the vote, compared to state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa’s 30.8 percent and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case’s 27.6 percent.
So it's not all that surprising that the prognosticators and spinmeisters jumped on stage early to help us understand just what this newest development means to the political parties battling for control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections.
Sure the loss, even temporarily, of a Democratic seat in this bluest of the blue states is bound to be bit of a national embarrassment for the Democratic Party, especially for the president. And the national GOP can take away some bragging rights, at least in the short term.
But folks would be wise to heed the mantra of the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill that “all politics is local.” This has absolutely nothing to do with the broader picture, especially in Hawaii, whose people rarely look beyond their little rocks bobbing in the great blue Pacific over to what is universally here called “the Mainland,” as if it’s just another much larger rock bobbing in the same deep blue ocean.
Instead, this all about the local Democrats, and their bitter feud to claim a seat that in their minds, is historically and rightfully theirs. It’s also about the Democratic new guard bumping up against the Democratic old guard and the battle that sees longtime kingmaker Sen. Daniel Inouye gradually losing his grip on the reins of power he’s controlled for decades.
There’s even some spin associated with that: “Finishing order shows influence of Inouye pick,” proclaims the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. In other words, says a prognosticator in that article, Inouye, by anointing Hanabusa, didn’t pick the winner, but he did pick the loser.
Which boils down to that old saw by Will Rogers, that “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” That is never more true than right here, right now.
Lucky for this splintered party that voters – not candidates, egos and kingmakers – will chose the Democrat who faces off against Djou in November.
Djou is right to revel in his victory. He should proceed to Washington amid congratulations for being the first Republican in almost 20 years to breach that not-so-thin blue line. But he might be wise to take out a short-term rental of an apartment there.
Because the silly season ain’t done yet. Just sayin’.
Mahalo for your support! Nancy Cook Lauer, the curator/publisher of All Hawaii News, is an award-winning 25-year journalist who covered state politics in Florida. Lauer moved to Hawaii in 2005, and has been actively involved in state news coverage since. She's vice president of the Hawaii SPJ chapter and holds a master's degree in library and information science from Florida State University.
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