By Mark Niesse
The Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) — Democrat Colleen Hanabusa ousted Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou from the U.S. House seat representing urban Honolulu, a victory for Democrats in President Barack Obama’s birth state.
Hanabusa said her win stems the tide of Republican House gains nationwide from reaching traditionally Democratic Hawaii, which supported Obama with 72 percent of the vote two years ago.
“The wave was coming, but it stopped short of us,” Hanabusa, the president of the Hawaii Senate, told KHON-TV. “Hawaii’s proud to claim the president of the United States.”
Hanabusa’s victory was one of only a few Democratic gains in the House.
It was a short tenure for Djou. He won the seat against Hanabusa in May in a winner-take-all election after Neil Abercrombie stepped down from Congress to run for governor.
The election split Democratic support between Hanabusa and several other candidates. Djou won that race with 40 percent of the vote.
Hanabusa’s election marks the first time Hawaii voters have ousted a congressional incumbent in 51 years since statehood. She won with 53 percent of the vote.
Hanabusa, the first Asian American woman in the nation to preside over a state legislative body, finally found a spot in Congress after two previous attempts.
During the campaign, Djou frequently repeated concerns that the country is heading in the wrong direction, but Hanabusa consistently backed controversial policies including the new health care law and stimulus programs.
“The beauty of the United States of America is that the final word goes to the people,” Djou said in his concession speech. “While we worked hard to offer the people a choice, the people have spoken here this evening, and the choice was not for us.”
In public debates, the 59-year-old Hanabusa criticized the 40-year-old Djou for voting against government programs that she said would have saved jobs and boosted the economy.
She characterized a vote for Djou as a vote for mainland Republicans, and TV ads repeatedly bashed him for voting with his GOP peers nearly 90 percent of the time in the few months since he was elected.
Djou responded that Hanabusa wouldn’t be independent in Congress because he claimed that she’d vote along with the rest of Hawaii’s all-Democrat congressional delegation most of the time.
TV ads and mailed brochures from national Republicans labeled Hanabusa as a tax-and-spend candidate who would consistently vote with her fellow Democrats.
Hanabusa’s election completes a Democratic sweep in Hawaii’s elections.
Abercrombie ended eight years of Republican rule by defeating Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona in the race for governor.
Rep. Mazie Hirono easily won a third term representing rural Oahu and Hawaii’s neighboring islands by defeating Republican tea party candidate John Willoughby.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, at 86 the nation’s senior senator, cruised to a ninth term. ♦