Djou: Most credible GOP candidate in years
If the Republicans are ever to regain any traction in Hawai'i, the party needs more candidates like Charles Djou. Earnest and likeable, Djou has mounted the most energetic and credible Republican campaign for a Hawai'i congressional seat since Pat Saiki first ran in the late 1980s.
In 10 years in public office, first as a state representative and since 2003 as a member of the Honolulu City Council, Djou has been a consistent fiscal conservative. He has advocated smaller budgets, tax cuts and more efficient delivery of public services and has been an ardent opponent of the city's $5 billion rail project.
To his credit, after the 2008 election affirmed public support for rail, Djou did what many rail opponents have not: he conceded defeat, stopped badmouthing the project and committed to ensuring that the plan developed by the city was sensible and fiscally sound. That practicality sets him apart from others who are still trying to shake public confidence in the project.
The son of Chinese immigrants, Djou grew up in Honolulu and graduated from Punahou School. An attorney and Army Reserve officer, Djou has soft-pedaled his Republican affiliation but not his Republican positions. He opposed the health care reform plan that became law, opposed the $800 billion stimulus package, opposes many provisions of the Akaka Bill and would push for a Hawai'i exexemption from the Jones Act.
His main motivation for running for Congress is his alarm over the federal budget deficit and what he sees as a reckless culture of spending by both Democrats and Republicans that will saddle future generations with trillions in debt.
Anti-tax, anti-rail, anti-stimulus, Djou needs to be careful not to be seen as the Candidate of No from the Party of No. He decries the stimulus as a waste of money, but asked for an alternative to juice the economy, he offers a radio talk-show retread: hand out cash to everyone.
Djou served only one term in the state House and, obviously seeking political advantage, moved across the island to run for the Council seat in 2002.
While he proudly claims to have introduced more bills that have passed the City Council than any other member, we would point to the failure of any of his anti-homelessness legislation to curb its spread throughout his Waikīkī and East Honolulu district.
Legislation alone doesn't always work and we never got the sense that Djou actually got his hands dirty working with police, social service agencies and the homeless themselves to try to craft a new approach to an old problem.