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Tuesday, April 22, 2014         

VOLCANIC ASH


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Djou departs political life, slamming door behind him

By David Shapiro

POSTED:



It wasn't quite, "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore," but Charles Djou made a rather ungracious exit from his brief stint representing Hawaii's 1st Congressional District.

At his farewell news conference, he all but swore off elective politics and assailed his successor, Colleen Hanabusa, in advance for any disappointments Hawaii might suffer on issues such as federal funding for the $5.5 billion Oahu rail project.

"If rail funding doesn't come through, we have to lay the blame at the hands of Colleen Hanabusa and the rest of Hawaii's congressional delegation," said Djou, who had similar sentiments on the future of the Akaka Bill for native Hawaiian political recognition.

Not what voters like to hear in a state that still values good political sportsmanship and hasn't yet bought into the poisonous divisions on the mainland.

Djou was elected to Congress in May after Neil Abercrombie stepped down to run for governor, winning with 40 percent of the vote as Hanabusa and Ed Case split the Democrats.

He lost the seat to Hanabusa in the general election after a brutal campaign in which the national parties and other outside interests poured millions of dollars into attack ads unprecedented in Hawaii.

It's understandable that Djou is sore about the nastiness of the campaign and having to relinquish the seat he held for such a short time, just as his fellow Republicans are on the rise in Congress.

But Hanabusa beat him fair and square. Djou had the advantage of incumbency and a big enough campaign bankroll to match the ad blitz against him.

He might not have liked the negative hits he took, but he gave as good as he got. In the end, the Republican campaign was seen by many voters as the more negative, as one ad for Djou doctored a picture to make Hanabusa look like Darth Vader and another accused her husband of corruption.

Mainly, Djou lost because he didn't moderate himself enough to appeal to the disgruntled independent Democrats who had voted for Case in the special election.

He ran his campaign straight out of the anti-Obama national GOP playbook, delivering a highly partisan and conservative message that has never played in Hawaii.

Give Djou credit for standing up for what he believes in. But at the same time, he has to accept that the majority of voters don't agree with him — and they have the last word.

Apparently, he figured he could eschew the niceties because he's out of the game. "Currently, I have no plans to run for any political office ever again," he said.

But you never know; six years after Nixon's famous "last press conference" following his defeat for California governor, he was elected president.

David Shapiro can be reached at volcanicash@gmail.com or blog.volcanicash.net.






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