Djou slams Mainland group's new ads
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou said yesterday that new campaign advertisements against him by national Democrats are an "outside interference" in the special election for Congress and should be rejected by voters.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect Democrats nationally, has paid for ads in Hawai'i that criticize the Republican Djou for signing a pledge by an anti-tax group promising that he would not vote to raise taxes.
The ad claims the pledge means Djou would "protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas."
"There should be no need for a Mainland Democrat group to be involved in Hawai'i elections unless they are afraid of how the people of Hawai'i will vote," Djou said in an e-mail to The Advertiser. "My position on issues is there for all to see, and the votes that I have taken are clear, honorable and correct."
The DCCC, concerned that former congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa will split the Democratic vote in the May special election, is expected to spend heavily in Hawai'i to prevent a Djou victory.
The DCCC is reportedly so worried about a loss in President Obama's hometown urban Honolulu congressional district that it has considered taking sides between Case and Hanabusa.
Case, who campaigns on his independence and his desire to change the political culture in Hawai'i and Washington, D.C., has a new ad that stresses he is a Democrat. Previous Case ads have avoided the party label.
Local Democrats who have backed Hanabusa, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and prominent labor leaders, have stood behind the state Senate president despite reports that national Democrats may go with Case.
Inouye has said he expects to meet with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when he returns to Washington next week to urge the DCCC not to endorse Case.
One local Democratic strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Hanabusa may be in better position than Case to launch a get-out-the-vote operation in the all-mail special election because of her support among unions and traditional Democrats.
Case has higher name recognition, but may not be able to raise as much campaign money as Hanabusa or have the ability to deploy as much grassroots help without union support, the strategist said. Hanabusa's campaign said in a news release last night it had raised more than $450,000 in the last quarter.
Case has declined requests to talk about campaign strategy.
Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawai'i, said Djou poses a challenge. But he said he hopes national Democrats will stay neutral and let local Democrats decide between Case and Hanabusa.
"Sooner or later they are going to have to make a decision," Carpenter said. "It may be difficult for some, easy for others, but that's the fortunes of war. That's politics."
Local Republicans have said a Djou victory would be comparable to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's GOP upset in Massachusetts in January.
The Brown comparisons have brought national attention to the special election in Hawai'i, but have put Djou in the crosshairs in a state with a history of voting for Democrats.
Djou, like Case, often describes himself as an independent not beholden to a party.
"I do not have second thoughts on being compared to Scott Brown," Djou said. "I am, however, Charles Djou and running my own campaign for Congress in Hawai'i and not a campaign for the Senate in Massachusetts.
"I am disappointed the DCCC has resorted to dirty politics and neither Ed or Colleen will stand up and denounce the DCCC's unethical behavior."
The National Republican Congressional Committee has listed Djou as a contender, the second tier of its candidate grooming effort. An NRCC spokeswoman could not say yesterday whether Republicans would counter the DCCC's ads.
Americans for Tax Reform, the national conservative group that asks candidates to sign an anti-tax pledge, released a statement yesterday arguing that the DCCC misrepresented the meaning behind the pledge.
The group said it wants candidates, like Djou, "to put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing. Candidates tend to talk a big game about never wanting to raise taxes. Why not simply ask them to put it in writing? A promise has more validity when put down for all to see. Djou has done just that and should be applauded for his decision."
Several Democrats in Congress have signed the pledge, although most who have signed are Republicans.