Ex-governors issue plea
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Three former Democratic governors asked voters yesterday to choose a Democrat in the special election for Congress and prevent Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, from taking advantage of a divided electorate.
Former Govs. George Ariyoshi, John Waihe'e and Ben Cayetano appeared at a news conference at the Democratic Party of Hawai'i headquarters as part of the party's final push to save urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District.
Ariyoshi and Waihe'e back state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, while Cayetano supports former Congressman Ed Case.
But the former governors agree that either Democrat would be superior to Djou.
"I'm convinced more than ever that this guy will march lock-step with the national Republican Party and try to block everything that President Obama is trying to do," Cayetano said. "That's not good for our country. That's not good for our state."
Public and private polls have Djou leading and Case and Hanabusa splitting the Democratic vote in the winner-take-all special election. The all-mail vote will end Saturday night, and the winner will serve out the remainder of former Rep. Neil Abercrombie's term in Congress, which ends in January 2011.
The September primary and November general election will determine who replaces Abercrombie in Congress. Abercrombie resigned in February to concentrate on his campaign in the Democratic primary for governor.
STATE GOP RESPONSE
Jonah Ka'auwai, the state GOP chairman, said it was no surprise the former governors would support a Democrat to perpetuate what he called a broken political system that they helped create.
"The only news that was made today is the Hawai'i Democrat(ic) Party has taken Hawai'i voters for granted," Ka'auwai said in a statement. "Democrats assumed Hawai'i voters would vote for any Democrat candidate and now that Charles' message has resonated with voters, Democrats realize they have the wrong message for Hawai'i.
"Charles Djou stated yesterday in his keynote address to the Hawai'i Republican Party convention that this congressional seat does not belong to the Democrat(ic) Party of Hawai'i, it belongs to the people of Hawai'i. The former governors simply telling people to vote for a Democrat is a last-minute attempt to hold on to power by people who have shown us how bad things can be when they have it."
Ariyoshi, referring to comments by Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona at the state GOP convention on Saturday that were critical of "old guard" Democrats, said he was proud of being in the old guard and of the party's achievements on issues such as health care and workers' rights.
Ariyoshi described Djou and Republicans as obstacles — the party of "no" — and said voters should consider what that may mean for Hawai'i.
SHOW OF UNITY
Djou has campaigned on principles of lower taxes, less government and a free-market approach to the economy and has said he would have opposed President Obama on issues such as health care reform and the federal stimulus package.
"I've always said, also, that a person who is negative really never achieves anything," Ariyoshi said. "You've got to be able to be for something rather than just be against things."
Waihe'e said Hawai'i has benefited from a united congressional delegation and needs someone who can work with the Hawai'i-born Obama.
Cayetano said electing Djou would essentially cancel out a Democratic vote and reduce the strength of the delegation from four votes to two.
"What is obvious is that the Republican involved in this winner-take-all election is not the type of person that will work well with our delegation, or, hopefully, the new Democratic governor," Waihe'e said.
The joint appeal was an attempt to show party unity after intense behind-the-scenes talks over the past several weeks between Democrats in Washington, D.C., and Honolulu.
Many national Democrats believe Case has the best chance against Djou, while key local Democrats — including U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, the state's leading Democrat — support Hanabusa and resisted suggestions that she step aside.
All three governors said they did not believe either Democrat should have dropped out.
"First of all, we couldn't get together because we are Democrats," Waihe'e joked, describing the division within the party as part of the "agony and ecstasy" of being Democrats.
Waihe'e also articulated some of the anguish many Democrats have been feeling over the past few days about a possible Djou victory in a district the party has held for two decades.
"That would be a nightmare," Waihe'e said. "I don't even want to dream that."