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Tuesday, September 02, 2014         

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Djou's political future up in the air

By B.J. Reyes

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Aside from spending more time with his family, Charles Djou says he has not given much thought to his immediate future, particularly to what lies ahead politically.

While he still is a U.S. representative until the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, "beyond this I have no political plans," Djou said yesterday in an interview.

"If this was my last race, it was a good race. We ran hard," he added.

Djou, an attorney, Army reservist and former adjunct law professor, said he also looked forward to catching up on sleep.

When pressed on his political future, he would not speculate.

"Could this be my last race? Yes," he said, before adding: "Never say never.

"I won't completely rule it out. Really, right now I'm looking forward to opening a new chapter in my life."

Although upbeat, Djou clearly remained disappointed at the outcome Tuesday, when he lost his re-election bid to state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa.

"We gave it our all, we gave it our best shot and I am happy for all the friends that I made throughout this campaign," he said. "I am so sorry to all of my hard-working volunteers that we weren't able to pull it together."

Djou won the seat in May in a special election to fill the remainder of the term vacated by Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie, and proved to be a formidable incumbent, raising $2.3 million for his campaign and coming within 6 percentage points of toppling Hanabusa, who had strong backing from the state's labor unions and top Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Even President Barack Obama appeared in a television commercial for Hanabusa and made a personal appeal for her candidacy via a conference call with local supporters.

"Honestly, we were going up against Goliath, and the Democratic machine is just powerful here in the state," Djou said. "I thought we had a good message talking about fiscal responsibility and a bipartisan congressional delegation, but our message didn't carry the day," he added. "The machine's message of a unified monolithic congressional delegation and for more government rather than less -- that's the message that won, and mine did not."

Djou now holds the distinction of being the only congressional incumbent voted out of office in Hawaii. But he is hardly damaged goods, said Neal Milner, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii.

"He just looked so crestfallen after losing I'm not sure that question is even very relevant to him right now," Milner said. "But if he wants to stay in politics, there's always room for a smart Republican.

"He's as good as any Republican candidate they've got right now."

Djou plans to return to Washington to finish the lame-duck session that begins Nov. 15. He does not expect any controversial issues to come up, "but Congress is always full of surprises."

Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.






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