Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Congressional races full of residency conflicts

By David Shapiro


As the deadline to register to vote in the general election passed Monday, Republicans took another shot at Democrat Colleen Hanabusa for not being able to vote for herself in the 1st Congressional District she seeks to represent.

Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou has used the residency issue against Hanabusa to good effect in both the special election, in which he won the right to finish Neil Abercrombie's term, and the current race to hold the seat for a full term.

Hanabusa, a state senator representing Waianae, was born and raised on the Waianae Coast and now lives in Ko Olina in the 2nd District.

Djou has pointedly noted at every opportunity that she ran unsuccessfully twice before for her native 2nd Congressional District seat, each time campaigning on the importance of living in the district one represents.

Both of Hanabusa's 2nd District losses were to opponents who lived in the 1st District: Ed Case in 2002 and Mazie Hirono in 2006.

If Hanabusa wins this year, Hawaii will be in the odd position of having the urban 1st District represented by a congresswoman with rural roots who lives in the 2nd District, and the rural 2nd District represented by a congresswoman with an urban background who lives in the 1st District.

Djou held a Windward seat in the Legislature (in the 2nd Congressional District) before moving to East Oahu (1st Congressional) eight years ago to run for the City Council.

The residency requirement for the U.S. House of Representatives is set by the U.S. Constitution, which simply states that a representative must live in the state in which he or she is elected -- not necessarily in the specific district.

The Constitution won't be amended any time soon, so Hawaii voters will have to keep deciding case by case what they consider acceptable.

In the early days of Hawaii statehood, both congressional representatives were elected at-large to serve the entire state, so it didn't matter where they lived.

But since the state was split into two single-member districts, there have been frequent conflicts between where candidates live and the districts in which they run.

Patsy Mink was the only 2nd Congressional District representative who actually lived in the district when she was elected to represent it. Daniel Akaka, Case and Hirono all lived in the 1st District at the time of their election, and only Case moved to the 2nd District after the election.

The 1st Congressional District has had the opposite experience, with all of its representatives -- Spark Matsunaga, Cec Heftel, Pat Saiki, Abercrombie and Djou -- living in the district at the time of their election.

If Hanabusa wins this year, she'd be the first resident of the 2nd District elected to represent the 1st District.

David Shapiro can be reached at or


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