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Democrats try to fend off challenge in Hawaii

  • DENNIS ODA
    Charles Djou (left) and Mark Takai posing for a picture together before a pep rally.
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President Barack Obama is trying to help Hawaii hold on to a Democratic seat in Congress with a recorded message the day before the election that asks voters to support state Rep. Mark Takai in a close House race.

Democrats in Obama’s home state are making a final push to fend off Republicans before Election Day, which features unpredictable races in Hawaii for governor and the U.S. House.

"In an election this close, we can’t afford to give Republicans an advantage just because a handful of folks didn’t vote," Obama said. "Your vote for Mark Takai will make a real difference in helping us create jobs, guarantee equal pay for women, and make college more affordable."

Obama’s message was being delivered to voters on a robocall Monday, said Takai’s deputy campaign manager, Alex Hetherington.

Takai is in a tough race with Republican Charles Djou for the seat that will be left vacant by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary.

Djou stressed the need for a bipartisan delegation in Washington, so that Hawaii would have a voice in the majority party in Congress.

"I’m not seeking this election to Congress to be President Obama’s loyal servant over there," Djou said. "I’m running to be the outspoken advocate for the people of Hawaii."

Takai said he was thrilled with Obama’s message.

"Charles’ very first vote is going to be to support (House Speaker John) Boehner and the tea party Republicans, and I do believe that how they view Hawaii and governing is very different from the values of Hawaii and our people," Takai said.

Ads funded by super PACs have flooded the airwaves in Hawaii’s governor race, where three strong candidates and one lesser-known made the race difficult to predict.

Democratic state Sen. David Ige, who toppled Gov. Neil Abercrombie in a historic primary upset, hoped to take the state’s highest office, while Republican James "Duke" Aiona appealed to voters’ Christian values. Two others, Independent Party candidate Mufi Hannemann and Libertarian Jeff Davis, could shake things up.

Aiona, who was traveling to Oahu’s North Shore Monday, said he felt great about the support he’s felt on the ground, as he headed for a lunch with supporters at a restaurant near Laie.

"Do we want more of the same, with the high cost of living, and underachieving education system, or do we want to change all of that?" Aiona asked. "I hope that our supporters will get out and vote, and let’s make that change."

The Republican Governors Association has poured $1.8 million into advertisements that portrayed Ige as a tax hiker who would hurt Hawaii’s economy, while the Democratic Governors Association gave money to the super PAC Hawaii Forward, which spent $1.5 million running ads that portray Aiona as an anti-abortion advocate who doesn’t share Hawaii’s values.

Hannemann, also campaigning on a message of change, said voters were turned off by the negative ads.

"They think it’s going to be the same old same old," Hannemann said. "We’re saying take another look. There’s another viable candidate out there."

Hawaii’s Senate seat is considered safely Democratic, with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz defending the seat he was appointed to by Abercrombie after Sen. Daniel Inouye died in 2012.

But attorney James Hochberg filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the validity of the election, saying it is unconstitutional because Abercrombie did not issue a writ of election, which is required under the 17th Amendment. Hochberg said the Constitution requires that the governor issue a writ of election to replace the fallen senator, and that the replacement should take office as soon as the election is certified.

"It’s just a completely unconstitutional process of replacing Inouye and there needs to be a do-over," Hochberg said.

Schatz declined comment through a campaign spokeswoman.

Cam Cavasso, Schatz’s Republican challenger, also is named as a defendant in the case.

"I am a strict constitutionalist, and as such I believe that if the U.S. Constitution or Hawaii Constitution has not been followed, or has been violated, it must be made right," Cavasso said.

Pat Saiki, chairwoman of Hawaii’s Republican Party, said she doubts the lawsuit will change the outcome of the election, but she hopes it will lead to change in the future.

"It’s a legitimate complaint that has to be addressed," Saiki said.

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