Obama urges Hawaii to vote for a Democrat
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
President Obama will appeal to Honolulu voters to choose a Democrat in the special election for Congress, as national Democrats grow increasingly alarmed that Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, could snatch the president's hometown district.
Obama recorded a telephone message for voters describing the special election in urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District as "crucial for us to continue pushing forward our agenda for change.
"I need a Democrat that will support my agenda in Congress," the president said in a message expected to be released today. "I need someone that will hold Wall Street and the big special interests accountable."
National Democrats, meanwhile, released a new poll taken for the Democratic National Committee that found Djou leading and former Congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa splitting the Democratic vote.
The poll results were similar to the Hawai'i Poll published in The Advertiser on Sunday.
A memo released with the DNC poll — first reported by Politico, a national political website — concluded that Case was better positioned to beat Djou.
"The bottom line is that with a split-Democratic vote, this congressional (seat) is more likely than not to fall into Republican hands," wrote Paul Harstad and Mike Kulisheck, of Harstad Strategic Research Inc., a Colorado based firm.
"Ed Case is the only candidate who can beat Charles Djou in this multi-candidate special election in May."
A national Democratic strategist, speaking privately, said the DNC poll and the memo reflected White House thinking about the campaign.
National Democrats have considered backing Case over Hanabusa and, behind-the-scenes, have urged Hanabusa's supporters to convince her to step aside.
The White House's political staff, according to a local Democratic strategist familiar with the conversations, has applied pressure to get U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka — who have endorsed Hanabusa — to ease up on their support.
"That's not local style. You just don't do that," the local strategist said. "You might do that someplace else — throw your friends under the bus — but in Hawai'i you just don't do that."
Randy Perreira, the executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state's largest public-sector labor union, said national Democrats are very concerned Djou might win.
Perreira, who was out sign-waving for Hanabusa yesterday afternoon, said labor is doing outreach to the estimated 30,000 AFL-CIO workers who live in the district.
"The message from the beginning is to vote Hanabusa, and we're not going to waver on that," he said.
Over the past few weeks, Case has sought to narrow the choice for voters as between him and Djou. He used the DNC poll results as fresh evidence.
"As we have been saying, Colleen cannot win this election, and her desperate attacks are proving that," Case said in an e-mail to supporters.
Hanabusa has said she does not believe the recent poll results depict the state of the campaign. Crystal Kua, a Hanabusa campaign spokeswoman, said she is not aware of any specific request for Hanabusa to step aside.
"We still believe that these polls are contrary to what we're hearing," she said.
Jonah Ka'auwai, the state GOP chairman, said he believes Djou is leading because of his message of fiscal conservatism and his criticism of the direction Congress is headed.
"The Democrats have issues that they have to work out," he said. "That's not our problem. That's their problem."