HI-01: Abercrombie to Resign Early

Add one more special election to the list:

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie announced today that he is resigning from Congress to run for governor full time….

The resignation will trigger a special election to fill the remainder of Abercrombie’s current congressional term which ends January 2011. The seat will also be up for grabs in the general election in November for the next two-year term.

This may not be too much of a surprise (although Abercrombie in April said he wouldn’t resign his seat), as Abercrombie needs to spend a lot of time in Hawaii to win the race, and that’s a rather long commute from Washington DC. This decision doesn’t affect the overall electoral calculus much, as Abercrombie was already in the middle of his last term, as he can’t run for House and Governor at the same time. On the Democratic side, state Senate president Colleen Hanabusa and ex-Rep. Ed Case are already running to succeed Abercrombie; Honolulu city councilor Charles Djou is running for the Republicans. Assumedly, they will all choose to participate in the special election, although they could choose to run only in the regularly scheduled election.

Abercrombie hasn’t set his final day in office, so the date of the special election won’t be known for a while. (I’m wondering if we could have a weird circumstance like Abercrombie’s first election to the House, where on the same day he won the special election to take over the House seat but lost the Democratic primary for the full term.)

UPDATE: If the special election held in 2003 to replace Patsy Mink (which is how Ed Case won) is any indication, it looks like Hawaiian special elections are just one big pool of people from all parties, with the first-past-the-post winning the whole thing (instead of a primary and then a general). If so, that could set up a weird scenario where Djou narrowly wins the special election because Hanabusa and Case split the majority of Democratic votes (say 40% Djou, 35% Hanabusa, 25% Case).

LATER UPDATE (James): In the comments, local SSPer skaje makes the case that the special election will only hurt Djou’s chances by splitting the right-of-center vote with Ed Case. It’s an interesting argument, and I have to admit that this thought crossed my mind. There’s no denying that Case has based a lot of his appeal on his position on the rightward side of Hawaii’s political equilibrium, but whether or not we see Republican-leaning voters splitting may end up hinging upon the type of campaign that Case chooses to run.

LATE LATE SHOW UPDATE (David): When would a special election occur? Essentially, whenever the Chief Election Officer wants to. According to Hawaii statutes, the only requirement is that the “CEO” must conduct a special election within sixty days of making a proclamation that there will be a special election. But the law is silent as to how soon such a proclamation must be issued. Indeed, CEO Kevin Cronin says that his department is strapped and that there may not even be a special election, or may be delayed until the September primary. Another wrinkle is that Cronin recently announced he was stepping down at the end of this month, so the decision may not fall to him.

RaceTracker Wiki: HI-01

75 thoughts on “HI-01: Abercrombie to Resign Early”

  1. Neal Abercrombie wins the Special Election, and loses a Democratic primary on the same day.

    Hawaii, they’re called runoffs, or IRV. Look into it. 😉

  2. Mink died on September 28.  The special election to fill the remainder of her term in the 108th Congress was November 30.  Weirdly then another special was held in early January (since Mink was posthumously reelected  in Novermber’s regular election)

  3. The Senate is made of 25 Members, and currently only two of those are Republicans, and the house is made up of 51 members, and only 6 of them are Republicans.

    Not a very large pool to choose from for that HI-01 seat, huh?

  4. finally a race where I can speak with a little more knowledge!  To everyone here, I assure you this special election is very good news for us.  Case running actually HURTS Djou.  The odds are very high Djou comes in third place in the special election.  

    Why, you say?  Because Case is basically a Republican already.  When he ran against Senator Akaka in 2006, his biggest support came from Republicans and conservative independents.  He burned so many bridges with both establishment Democrats and with grassroots progressives that Case’s presence in the race only takes away voters that Djou would desperately need to get anywhere near 30%, let alone 40% and win with a plurality.

    The sole hope the Hawaii GOP had was that Case would bloody up Hanabusa enough in the Democratic primary (a primary that Republicans would dive into like they did in 2006, since Djou will easily claim the GOP primary without their help), that when the general election came around, enough Case voters would coalesce around Djou that he could narrowly win the open seat.

    But with Hanabusa likely to have several months of incumbency, those hopes are dashed.  She will easily win the special election and the general election.

    The 2003 special election is not a good indicator of how this will turn out because of how badly Case has hurt his standing with Hawaii Democrats in the past 6 years.  He and Djou will split the conservative vote, bet on it.

  5. You are right, Case’s impact on the race will partly depend on how he runs his campaign.  I’m not really sure what he will do.  I know what Djou will say: “I’m running against two liberal Democrats”.  I know what Hanabusa will say: “I’m running against two out-of-touch conservatives that will vote against Obama”.  But I don’t know what Case will say.  In 2006 he basically attacked Akaka’s age and relative lack of accomplishments, saying it was time for a change, and so on.  His line of attack against Hanabusa (and Djou for that matter) is not obvious this time around.  He has been very quiet so far and I don’t know how he plans to actually win this time.

    I suppose there is a danger if he suddenly starts championing progressive causes, trying to run to Hanabusa’s left.  Only problem with that is that Case truly is a dedicated centrist, and is not the kind of guy to just change his political positions.  However he runs his campaign, I expect the type of voters he would get to overlap with the types of people that might be tempted to vote for Djou.

  6.   There’s a lot of machine thinking on this thread, and I suggest we start thinking a little more clearly.

     Ed Case’s DINO reputation is undeserved, and Colleen Hanabusa’s progressive reputation is undeserved.

     No politician in Hawaii has been stronger on environmental issues than Case.

     No politician in Hawaii has been stronger on choice than Case.

     No politician in Hawaii has been as strong on LGBTQ issues as Case.  He risked his entire political career to fight the homophobic constitutional amendment and the law banning same-sex marriages, while the rest of the Dems–Hanabusa included–supported it.  Gabbard, the LGBTQ-hater who challenged Case as a far-right Repub because of it, switched to the Dems and became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee thanks to Hanabusa.

     Hanabusa has no real chance to win a special election–she’s more likely to finish third.  She doesn’t have the name recognition, especially in the 1st CD.  Case started his political career in the 1st CD, and Djou represents a good part of it on the City Council, whereas she has never had any connection to it.  And Case’s support doesn’t come from Repubs–it comes from moderate Dems and independents, especially Dems who are sick of the Inouye machine and its weak candidates (Akaka is a perfect example, as are Hannemann and Hanabusa) whose main qualifications are that they’re dependable yes-men for Inouye.

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