Special elections could make for short-serving members of Congress in Hawaii and Pennsylvania

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Facing two Democrats in a winner-take all special election, Charles Djou is poised to become the first Republican to represent President Obama’s home district since the 1990s when the mail-in ballots in Hawaii are counted this weekend.

But he may not be in Congress for long.

If elected, Djou would immediately assume office — but would face a much tougher re-election in November when he runs against only one Democrat instead of two.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen evoked laughter from reporters during a Thursday press conference when asked if he’s written off the chance of a Democrat beating Djou this weekend: “Well, we’re looking at November in Hawaii.”

The special election to replace the remaining term of Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to run for governor, has proved embarrassing for national Democrats. Unable to persuade either Democrat Ed Case or Colleen Hanabusa to drop out of the contest to prevent a split of the Democratic vote, the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee decided to withdraw from the special election.

But Van Hollen said math from this weekend’s election will show that Djou will be a short-timer. “I can confidently predict that the Democrats together will get a majority of the vote [this weekend], just like the Democrat candidate will in November will get a majority of the vote.”

National Republicans, while saying Djou’s prospects this weekend for winning the seat are “very encouraging,” were mum when questioned Wednesday on what their November strategy will be.

“I think the voters in Hawaii will elect him on his values and promises,” said NRCC eCampaign Director John Randall, speaking about the weekend election. “And if he lives up to those promises, he will have a very strong record to run on in November.” Randall declined to elaborate further, saying he didn’t want to put “the cart before the horse.”

Djou attended the same high school as President Obama’s in Hawaii and was in classes with the president’s sister. “Had I known her older brother would be president, I would’ve asked her out to prom,” he said with a laugh during an earlier interview with The Daily Caller.

For now, in Hawaii, NRCC spokeswoman Rebecca Mark said Djou is focused on grassroots campaigning, like his daily orchestrated sign wavings that are integral to winning in Hawaii politics.

During an interview, Djou said he gets up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to hit a busy intersection with supporters and wave at passers-by — while holding a “Djou for Congress” sign.

“It’s the cheapest way to get name ID.”

Democrat Mark Critz, who on Tuesday won a special election in Pennsylvania to fill the unexpired seat of his former boss, Rep. Jack Murtha, could face a similar fate.

He will be sworn in Thursday afternoon on the House floor, but will be forced back to the campaign trail, as he and Republican Tim Burns will re-match in November. Burns is hoping a change in circumstances at the polls will make a change in the results.

Van Hollen said Critz was introduced to the Democratic caucus Thursday morning and the soon-to-be sworn in congressman is anxious to vote on legislation. He said he thinks “we’re gonna be in good shape in Pennsylvania 12 in the general election.”

But Critz, in November, will be an incumbent with a voting record in a year that the electorate is anti-Washington. “Now Critz cant just define himself with TV ads,” Randall said. “He’s got to define himself with votes,” something that will not always be easy with voters “when Nancy Pelosi is setting the agenda.”

And he will not benefit from the high-Democratic turnout that occurred Tuesday as a result of the hot Democratic senate primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak. “There’s not gonna be that excitement,” Randall said.

“It’s always hard to predict five months out, but I wouldn’t say this is over.”

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