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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 6, 2010

Give Hanabusa credit for hanging tough

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Colleen Hanabusa

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For nearly 20 years, most elections for the Honolulu congressional seat have been sleepy, predictable affairs, with Neil Abercrombie coasting to easy wins after leisurely campaigns.

Congressman Abercrombie was a familiar presence, like Joe Moore on the news. Even if they didn't especially like him or agree with his politics, voters weren't ever given much of a reason to switch the channel.

The ongoing special election for Hawai'i's 1st Congressional District is changing all that. It's a sprited race among three accomplished candidates offering voters distinct choices that mirror the national political divide: Colleen Hanabusa, the traditional Democrat; Ed Case, the conservative Blue Dog Democrat; and Charles Djou, the anti-tax Republican.

For that reason, we're glad Hanabusa announced yesterday she's staying in the race, even as poll numbers show her trailing. We're glad she ignored the cynical voices of national party operatives who urged her to quit so the Democrats can salvage a victory instead of splitting the vote with Case.

Hanabusa showed she's a fighter, not a quitter. Polls have been wrong before. And besides, what's the point of dropping out when thousands of ballots have already been mailed in?

The pressure on Hanabusa shows how desperate Democrats are to keep control of a U.S. House that's slipping from their grasp. Losing President Obama's home district even for a few months would send a message of change that Obama didn't have in mind. One senior Democratic official complained to Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post that Sens. Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka, who firmly back Hanabusa, are "allowing local politics to trump national Democratic interests."

To which we reply: So what?

It's a decision that belongs to the voters in the 1st District, not to party wheeler-dealers. And let's face it: When you have the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spending more than $300,000 in anti-Djou attack ads; or when conservative shouter Sean Hannity raises more than $115,000 for Djou on his Fox News show; or when the DCCC offers Case support to ease out Hanabusa ... well, it's tempting to tell them all to butt out. We'd rather have the good folks from Hawai'i Kai to Mililani decide for themselves, and for us.