Takai bests rival Djou

 ·  Krystle Marcellus, Honolulu Star Advertiser   ·   Link to Article

Democratic state Rep. Mark Takai maintained his lead over Republican Charles Djou in the second printout in race for the 1st Congressional District.

Takai had 56,609 votes, or 54 percent, compared to 47,940 or 46 percent for Djou in the second printout which includes all of the absentee walk-in votes, some mail-in absentee votes and intiial election day returns counted as of about 8 p.m.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard held an insurmountable lead over Republican Kawika Crowley, a businessman and a former lobbyist for smoking rights.

Gabbard had 85,080 votes or 81 percent. Crowley had the second-highest vote numbers with 18,065, or 17 percent. Libertarian Joe Kent had 2,354 votes.

The race between Takai and Djou, two seasoned legislators and military veterans, had been close in pre-election polls.

On policy, both Takai and Djou tried to remain centrist while also supporting some the core principles of their parties.

Djou had stressed the need to lower the cost of doing business in Hawaii by reducing the layers of government regulation and taxes, thus encouraging more small business owners to hire more employees and expand operations.

Takai has voiced support for infrastructure projects at the federal level that drive the overall economy and spur job creation, while also backing renewable energy and sustainable food initiatives to prevent an estimated annual loss of $9 billion from the economy for the importation of foreign oil.

Takai also sought to tie Djou to tea party conservatives who many have blamed for the bitter partisan gridlock in Congress, saying their values are not in line with those of traditionally Democratic Hawaii.

Djou countered that his election would be more beneficial to Hawaii, because it would give the islands a seat in the majority party in the U.S. House.

Both relied on heavy media campaigns to get out their messages.

Takai, raised about $1.4 million in the campaign through Oct. 15, the latest date for which reports are available at the Federal Elections Commission website. He spent about $1.2 million on the race overall, which included a heavy campaign to emerge from a crowded Democratic primary.

Djou had raised about $925,000 and spent only about $548,000 as of Oct. 15. Unlike Takai, Djou spent little in the GOP primary against token opposition, giving him the cash on hand in the final weeks of the campaign to mount a last-second ad blitz of television and radio commercials.

But both also received substantial help from mainland interests, also known as third-party super PACs, which are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to try to influence a race, so long as there is no coordination with a candidate or party.

In the final weeks of the campaign, the American Action Network, a conservative political action committee headed by former Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, spent about $300,000 on television ads against Takai.

Meanwhile, the group Working Families for Hawaii, a labor group financed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, entered the race with $144,000 in TV ads against Djou. VoteVets.org, a group that supports progressive veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Congress, already supported Takai with $185,000 in early October, on top of $175,000 it spent to raise his name identification in the primary.

Takai supporters joined other Democratic candidates at the Manoa Grand Ballroom in the Japanese Cultural Center in Moiliili for an Election Night rally co-hosted by comedian Andy Bumatai and state Democratic Party Chairwoman Stephanie Ohigashi. Entertainment was provided by Brother Noland.

Nuuanu resident Christina Aikau caught the bus to the campaign event to support Takai after she got off work in the accounting department for Foodland Super Market Ltd. in Kaimuki.

Aikau, who voted for Takai earlier in the day, said she believes the Democrat is the better choice, adding that he explained his positions well and is honest.

"I think he'll do the job," she said.

Takai spent the afternoon sign-waving across the district and making phone calls to try and turn out every last one of his voters.

Djou visited Island Pacific Academy in Kapolei in the morning to discuss the elections with third-grade students. Supporters gathered at his headquarters in Kalihi to watch returns.

"Charles has the experience and Hawaii needs change. Hawaii has gone with the same party for years," said Natasha Garcia, a University of Hawaii student.

Another supporter, Roy Nakamura, agreed it was time for change.

"We need somebody that will lead rather than make excuses because politicians over the years have failed, which is why people don't want to vote," he said. "Charles is the only one that can turn it around."

State GOP Chairwoman Pat Saiki said a Djou victory would simply be part of a larger trend, noting that the U.S. Senate turned to Republican hands on Tuesday night, giving the GOP control of both houses of Congress.

"There's a Republican wave that's coming right across the country," she told Hawaii News Now.

The race was close throughout, characterized by close polling results and a lot of money spent by both sides.

The candidates were as similar as they were different.

Takai, 47, served in the state Legislature representing the Newtown-Pearl City area for 20 years. A lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard, Takai was deployed to Kuwait in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Djou, 44, served in the state House and City Council before briefly winning the 1st Congressional District seat in 2010. In May of that year, Djou emerged victorious from a special election over Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case, and held the seat until he was defeated in the November general election later that year. A major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Djou was deployed with his unit in 2011 to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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