When Charles Djou won a special election to replace Neil Abercrombie in the House earlier this year, most people chalked it up to the dynamics of the compressed campaign and the two Democrats who split the opposition vote.  Djou took only 39% of the vote, while Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case split 57%, making Djou the first Republican to hold the seat in 19 years to represent the District.  In a general election, against just one Democrat, Djou would almost certainly get blown out.

Surprise!

The race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District seat is too close to call. The latest poll numbers show Charles Djou and Colleen Hanabusa are virtually tied with a little more than a week to go until the general election.

Ward Research conducted the poll for Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

With just nine days left until the election, Republican Congressional candidate Charles Djou and Democratic challenger Colleen Hanabusa are neck and neck, according to the results of our new poll.

Four hundred six voters in the 1st Congressional District were asked if the election were held today, who would you vote for. Forty-eight percent said Djou, while 46% chose Hanabusa. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

This is not exactly unprecedented.  Pat Saiki won two terms in this seat before she tried her luck in a 1990 Senate race in an attempt to unseat Daniel Akaka, and did well to get within ten points of the then-appointed Senator filling out Spark Matsunaga’s term in office. Republicans can win here … it’s just that they rarely do.

The 1st CD has a Cook rating of D+11, which is daunting but not insurmountable in this election.  Djou also wisely kept himself busy on policy and avoided partisan grandstanding while in Washington, focusing mainly on economic policy and fiscal responsibility.  As in so many other districts around the country, this has proven a winning message for Djou and Republicans, especially by attracting independents that see the culture wars as off-putting.

Also, at the time Djou won in May, I speculated that taking back the seat may be more difficult for Democrats even without the headwinds they face.  Giving Djou just five months to prove himself is a rather short trial run even for House members, and I thought Djou had a good chance of keeping enough goodwill with voters that they would give him a full term to earn their trust.  It seems that Djou has added to his base from May in the following months, a good indication that he has at least earned a longer trial run on Capitol Hill.

A win by Djou would provide a cherry on the cake for a Republican wave.  Check out his website to learn more, and watch my interview with Djou in June at this link.