Republicans Hope Dem Split In Hawaii Ends In Victory Saturday : It's All Politics Republicans hope that a split Democratic field can propel them to victory in a special congressional election in Hawaii's 1st District on Saturday.
NPR logo Republicans Hope Dem Split In Hawaii Ends In Victory Saturday

Republicans Hope Dem Split In Hawaii Ends In Victory Saturday

Remember how much the Republicans were torn in knots last year in the special election in New York's 23rd CD?  That was the one for the House seat of John McHugh, who resigned to become President Obama's Army Secretary.

Dede Scozzafava, the Republican Party establishment's choice for the seat, was from the outset on the defensive from her party's right wing for her views on abortion rights and same-sex marriage.  She not only was running against Democrat Bill Owens but faced a challenge from her right, in Doug Hoffman, a Republican who ran on the Conservative Party line.  Days before the actual election, Scozzafava dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democrat.

On election day, Owens, the Democrat, won in the historically Republican district, getting 49 percent, as Scozzafava and Owens split the GOP vote.

Now it's potentially the Democrats' turn for similar anguish.

On Saturday, voters in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District will choose a successor to Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who resigned to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.  With all candidates, regardless of party, running on the same ballot — and with only one major Republican, Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, in the race — Democrats were desperately trying to limit the number of their major candidates also to one.

They failed.

Both Ed Case, a former House member who gave up his seat to mount an unsuccessful bid for the Senate in the 2006 primary against incumbent Democrat Daniel Akaka, and Colleen Hanabusa, the president of the State Senate, refused to be nudged aside.  So both are running for Abercrombie's seat ... and many think the split in the party will elect Djou.  (In all, 14 candidates are on the ballot.)

No Republican has won a House race in Hawaii since Patricia Saiki was re-elected in 1988; two years later, she gave up the seat to run for the Senate, losing to Akaka, and Abercrombie replaced her..

Now you know everything.

Well, almost everything.  There is deep dislike for Case among many in the state Democratic establishment, especially Sens. Akaka and Dan Inouye, who still express anger over Case's 2006 challenge of Akaka and who are backing Hanabusa.

But other Democrats, including many in Washington, feel Case would be a far stronger candidate in a two-way race than the more liberal Hanabusa.  They have urged her, subtly and not so subtly, to get out of the race.  She refuses to budge, and some of her supporters have suggested race — as in, her ethnicity — played in role in the Beltway Democrats choosing sides.

For the longest time, the DCCC — unable to choose one horse to back — ran ads attacking Djou.  Now, fearing (expecting?) defeat, they have pulled out of Hawaii completely.

Democrats were thrilled with their victory in the special PA 12 race on Tuesday.  But that was for a seat they have held for the past 36 years.  If they lose in Hawaii on Saturday, it will be the Republicans who will be doing the crowing.  And in a district won by native son Barack Obama, with 70 percent of the vote.