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Hanabusa tops Djou for House seat

The victory gives Democrats a sweep of contested federal campaigns in Hawaii

By B.J. Reyes

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:45 a.m. HST, Nov 03, 2010


Hawaii Democrats swept their three congressional races yesterday and now prepare to return to a vastly different landscape in Washington.

Colleen Hanabusa ended Republican Charles Djou's six-month U.S. House term with a victory that at one point seemed in doubt even in a Democratic stronghold such as Hawaii.

"This has been an amazingly long journey ... the fact that you had to go with me through three elections," she told supporters last night at her campaign headquarters. "You know what they say about the third one.

"All of your faith, trust, confidence and hope -- that's what brought us this far," said Hanabusa, who won the contest for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District seat (urban Honolulu).

Hanabusa and fellow U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, who handily defeated GOP challenger John Willoughby, now head to Capitol Hill as members of the minority party, after Republicans won control of the U.S. House.

Hanabusa has two years remaining on her state Senate term and has to resign that seat before she is sworn in as a member of Congress on Jan. 3. The governor will appoint a successor from a list provided by her party.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye cruised to a ninth term in the Senate over former state lawmaker Cam Cavasso. Democrats' continued control of the U.S. Senate means Inouye retains his post as president pro tempore -- third in line to the president -- and chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Hanabusa led after the second printout by 6 percentage points, with 97 of 98 precincts reporting. Djou conceded at about 10:45 p.m., saying the election gave voters a true choice.

It was a rough-and-tumble campaign, the closeness of which brought in roughly $2 million in money from mainland groups spent mostly on attack ads. The two ran neck and neck since the September primary, and most polls even as late as last week showed the race in a statistical tie.

Djou and Hanabusa had been campaigning since the start of the year, after Neil Abercrombie announced he would resign in February to concentrate on his run for governor.

In a hotly contested special election in May, Djou won with 40 percent of the vote, as Democrats were unable to rally behind a single candidate: Hanabusa or former congressman Ed Case. Key party leaders, including Inouye and Akaka -- both still ruffled from Case's Senate bid in 2006 -- backed Hanabusa, while national Democrats appeared to be pooling resources behind Case as the more electable Democrat.

Djou's special-election victory took on added symbolism coming just weeks after Republican gains in other states and the seat's location in President Barack Obama's former home state. Case ultimately dropped out, leaving Democrats confident of being able to flip the seat back to their side in the traditionally Democratic district.

But Djou proved to be a formidable incumbent and a prolific fundraiser, pulling in more than $2.3 million for his campaign, compared with more than $2 million by Hanabusa.

Hanabusa's victory was validation for Inouye, who assured national Democrats last spring that the party would regain the district in November.

"At that time I was certain that Hanabusa would win," Inouye said. "Most people don't understand the people of Hawaii. In a way we are a bit different. It's not easy to tell someone from Chicago or from Baltimore or from New York what Makaweli is like or Eleele. But I've been around for a while, and I felt Hanabusa would win."

Star-Advertiser reporters June Watanabe and Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.






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