This is shaping up to get very, very ugly:
More important, two Democratic sources told POLITICO that the DCCC is working feverishly to prevent a very real scenario in which the two top Democrats split the party vote and enable Republican Charles Djou to capture the heavily Democratic seat in Hawaii’s May 22 all-party special election. […]
Determined to avert that result, the two sources said the DCCC is providing under-the-radar organizational support to former Rep. Ed Case against Democratic state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, including assistance from DCCC Western Regional Political Director Adam Sullivan.
Those efforts have coincided with the circulation of opposition research within Washington advancing the notion that Hanabusa is a longtime insider who received significant legislative pay raises at a time when the state has suffered through economic hard times – an emerging storyline that led Hanabusa to pull down her first campaign ad touting a vote to cut state legislative salaries and concede that the spot was misleading.
Here’s the problem: While the DCCC seems to want to throw all their resources to the odious Ed Case, the local party establishment — including veteran Democratic Sens. Inouye and Akaka — is firmly behind Colleen Hanabusa. The Politico cites two unnamed sources who inform them that the DCCC is letting Inouye and Akaka know that they’re preparing to back Case, and that “senior Democratic officials” have met with the top brass at AFSCME to convince the union to drop their opposition to Case and ditch Hanabusa.
Worse, the official word from the DCCC isn’t doing anything to dispel these reports:
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said Tuesday he wouldn’t rule out making an endorsement in the May special election in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.
As two Democrats – former Rep. Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa – compete against a single GOP candidate in the three-way election, Van Hollen didn’t reject reports that the DCCC may swing behind Case’s campaign.
“Our biggest focus is trying to expose [Republican Honolulu City Councilman Charles] Djou’s Republican record,” Van Hollen said after an event hosted by the Washington think tank Third Way. “I’m not saying we won’t [endorse], but our focus is on exposing the Republican’s record.”
For his part, Inouye is holding firm that the DCCC won’t pick a favorite in the race, and that he’ll fight to make sure they don’t make that mistake:
“They’re not working for case or for Hanabusa. They’re working against Djou,” Inouye said. […]
Inouye told KITV4 that he talked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by phone, to ensure the committee is not leaning toward supporting Case. “I said, you better look at the facts and she said she will. So I’m going to talk to her when I get back to Washington,” Inouye promised.
However, local ABC affiliate KITV has their own sources suggesting that the DCCC will ditch its neutral approach and formally back a candidate in the “next couple of weeks”.
With the local party establishment so thoroughly revolted by the prospect of an Ed Case return to the House, I think the DCCC is on the verge of making a potentially disastrous decision here that will bitterly divide the party with only weeks to go until the special election. If the DCCC really wanted to get involved, they should have done so earlier by convincing Abercrombie not to resign his seat and let this battle instead play out in the Democratic primary. As it is right now, we’re looking at the prospect of a very real — and very fierce — backlash to ham-fisted efforts from the mainland to anoint a favorite here.