Races to Watch

Aloha friends and activists,

Previous report:  Primary, Fun With Numbers (Sep 25)

Today:  General Election Races to Watch

Election Day is a month away but voting begins before November.  Again, we are in the position of having to win something.  If you get your friends and neighbors and get out to vote, Rs will perform better than predicted.  Several races are interesting considering that we have 1/25 senators and 5/51 house members.  So far, we won one seat (HI-1) and gave up two (S25, H32).  Our challenged incumbents must win and we must pick up seats to simply break even.  Let me know why there are others to watch or send out your own list.

We’ll know more when the Oct 8 CSC reports are posted.  Funds are more than just money; local donations give an idea of grassroots support.   For big races, money isn’t everything as long as you have it.  For small races, DTD can more than make up for a lack of funds.

Top-of-ticket.  A strong Aiona organization helps down-ticket Rs.  RGA is spending on Aiona to make voters comfortable with him.  Finally, this week, an RGA commercial to make voters uncomfortable with Abercrombie.  With the electorate is 2:1 D, it takes more than “vote for me because I am a nice guy” and RGA (HRP doesn’t have the funds) has to explain why the opponent is not so good.  Regardless, RGA commercials and brochures do not ID voters or get voters to the polls.  RNC provided early Victory staffing funding which helps all R campaigns.  RNC failed this cycle to net the funds needed nationally; RGA bailed out RNC in several states but not Hawaii.  HRP is unable, without help, to conduct a statewide AB and GOTV effort; Aiona needs RGA funds to do so.  NRCC is no longer spending on Djou though they have a two-week window to counter DCCC ads.  HRP warned candidates to not expect support; they have funds to be effective in only three-four house districts (it takes 4-5 mailers/district + 4-7 from a candidate to impact a voter).  Obama ’08 trashed many good R campaigns; Abercrombie ’10 down-ticket impact endangers several R campaigns.

Focus.  R can’t match D resources.  Tea party, business and religious right groups should focus their time and money where we can win with Rs who best support their respective goals.  PAC and coalition resources – volunteers, donations, uncoordinated PAC support – should go into these districts.

Christian strength, divide.  HB444 does not create the heightened emotions now as defining marriage did but it has the religious right involved.  Kaauwai (Party Chair) made believers in God uncomfortable with his (Kaauwai) suggesting that only followers of Jesus are righteous.  Christian Coalition must match goals to capabilities.  The most electable candidates who hold their values are H32 Johanson and H18 Baron; the combination of open seat, fundraising and campaign organization make these their best opportunity.

Interesting races

HI-1  R Djou incumbent v D Hanabusa.  Ds consider this a pick up.  Cook says toss up.  NYT blog (fivethirtyeight) says Hanabusa is up to 58% chance to win but NYT has it still a toss up.  We’ll see who doesn’t lose.  Nonaka left Djou’s campaign in disarray, Hanabusa is running a weak campaign.  Hanabusa out raised Djou in this past report and pulled even in COH.  Djou perfected the art of earned media, “appears congressional” and easily integrated into the R caucus.  Business should focus here because Djou is a strong fiscal conservative.  Tea party will overlook his social positions but must be concerned with his support of Akaka Bill.  “Moderates” will appreciate but conservatives may have issue with all his positions not fiscal but Hanabusa is even more liberal.  Djou appears to want it more than does Hanabusa.  This week, Rothenberg says a D (yes, D) internal has Djou up double digits and Sabato moved the race from Lean D to toss up.

H4 D Hanohano incumbent v R Hapai.  Hanohano doesn’t raise much money and barely won her primary with <48% of the D vote.  She faces a well-connected Hapai who can add money to her campaign and who had only 18% blank votes.  Hapai’s support for Akaka Bill may concern conservatives but it works in her district.  A much less-experienced (than Hapai) R Blas ’08 (running for ’10 council) without as many resources gave Hanonano a good run.

H11 D Bertram incumbent v R Fontaine.  HRP hit Bertram hard in ’08 but Fontaine didn’t campaign well.  HRP hit Bertram hard in the off-year with a national advocate on the radio explaining how Bertram supported in court a pedophile until leadership directed the ads be pulled.  This year, Bertram pulled <45% of D vote in his primary.  Fontaine is better but is not an aggressive campaigner and settled for 21% blank votes.  Liberals can appreciate but conservatives should be concerned that Fontaine supports (from ’08 Project Vote Smart) limiting campaign contributions, anti-gun legislation, civil unions and state funded stem cell research.

H18. Open seat (D Berg).  D Hashem v R Baron.  Hashem wasn’t expected to be competitive and he won convincingly in a tough primary.  He lent himself most of his funds and still has to establish that he has community support.  We’ve tried to get Baron to run in the past and he is running well despite his whopping 27% blank votes.  This week he brought in two experienced R house campaigners to beef up his campaign.  S8 Slom’s longtime H18 support helps Baron.  Conservatives and the religious right should focus here.

Maui Mayor D Tavares incumbent v R Arakawa.  Great matchup.  In a case of “careful what you wish;” a lot of people didn’t like Arakawa at term’s end, a lot of people don’t like Tavares at the end of her’s.  Arakawa declined a run for state senate in ’08 but stayed prepared.  He didn’t just slip into the general.  He ran a powerful primary campaign only 250 votes (out of their combined 14,600) behind the incumbent.

HNL Council IV Open seat (R Djou) D Chang v D Turbin.  New blood vs old.  Progressive Turbin has been around a long time, chairing the Kahala NB, and was waiting (for Djou) to run again.  Liberal Chang has been raising money and walking for 18 months and rec’d 600 more votes than did Turbin.  Turbin is well-connected, Chang is liked.  Rs are splitting, looking for the lesser of the liberals.

Maui Council (South) D Nishiki incumbent v N Couch.  Rematch.  Couch left the HRP before the last election.  A major Maui donor supports both candidates.  Nishiki brings a lot of baggage.  Last election was pretty nasty.

Maybe there.

S25. Open seat (R Hemmings) R Enos v D Ryan.  We tried to get Enos to run for ’08 H51 but she spends much of her time on the Big Island.  Of three HD with precincts in S25:  H51 Lee’s decisive ’08 win over Kawananakoa+best HRP campaigners makes for an interesting up-ticket dynamic.  H50 Thielen and H17 Ward without opponents means less ground-level GOTV.  Neither raised what it takes to win a senate seat so they cancel out each other in that aspect.  Last CSC:  Enos so far raised 12k with 4,700 COH.  Ryan raised some money (18k) but spent most of it on primary.  This may be a case of which one is the strongest of the weak.  Enos’ support of the Akaka Bill, off-shore gambling, the Jones Act and current gun laws will concern conservatives and get ‘moderate’ votes.  There are no ‘republican’ districts (recall H5 Kawananakoa, H18 Leong, H47 Meyer, H40 Moses etc);  Rs have to run (and walk DTD) hard.

H6 D Coffman incumbent v R Leau.  Star R Andy Smith couldn’t take the district back in a couple attempts.  This race was in the competitive category until Leau slumped on fundraising.  Coffman’s 26% blank votes should concern him, Leau did well with only 17%.  Leau hides her positions; she did not submit a survey to Hawaii Reporter, AARP or Kona Coffee Growers…. or Family Forum.

H28 D Rhoads incumbent v R Chang.  Chang is a good R newcomer who raised the most of R first time candidates and it helped his ID (only 21% blank votes).  He is supported by Lingle in her current home district and he is liked by the party leadership.  This is similar to R Colin Wong’s race a couple cycle’s ago.  The D residency challenge is not to get him disqualified, it has earned media to highlight his carpetbagger status.  Rhoads is a tough knockout and still carried 24% blank votes.  Conservatives should ask for specifics; Chang gives caveats or doesn’t answer the question on the Akaka Bill, 2d Amendment and a state tax for rail.  If Rhoads missteps, business and the religious right should focus here.

Big Island Council 6 Smart v Enriques.

Fun to watch

Gov.  Open seat (R Lingle) R Aiona v D Abercrombie.  Top of ticket, lots of TV.  Dems really, really want back onto the 5th floor.  Many Aiona supporters forget/don’t know how very hard it was for Lingle to get there (Hellriech’s experience helps Aiona).  Two (March, June) Rasmussen polls had Aiona down 20+.  Star Advertiser had Abercrombie (Apr) +14 and (Aug) +12.  Cook has this lean D.  NYT blog has Abercrombie with 91% odds to win and predicts an 11-point win.  Aiona has name recognition.  It’ll take the first poll to see if Ds rally to Abercrombie.  Abercrombie in six months matched Aiona’s 2.8M three year total.  On the pre-primary contribution report, for donations the two weeks before the primary, Abercrombie pulled in 175k to Aiona’s 15k.  Abercrombie spent most of his funds in the primary and Aiona has only 470k COH after no primary.  Aiona is receiving a lot of outside help with RGA so far spending 770k on commercials and a brochure.  Abercrombie won big in his primary to gain momentum, support and lots of earned media.  Aiona could have better used his primary.  Kaauwai “deciding” and very publicly declaring Aiona to be only righteous candidate (since 1900) has Aiona back peddling from HRP.  Schatz brings more to Abercrombie’s table than Finnegan brings to Aiona’s though Lingle’s capable team went to Finnegan’s campaign (not Aiona’s).  Aiona consultant Peschong is very good and needs to pull out this win.  Aiona’s support for the Akaka Bill and refusal to sign the Taxpayers Protection Pledge should concern conservatives and tea party.  Can the religious right make a statewide impact?  Do Lingle “moderates” stay with Aiona or stay home?  Is anyone going to expose Abercrombie’s radical past and socialist associations?  Will RGA continue to spend if the poll numbers don’t improve?

S8 R Slom incumbent v D Price.  Slom is the favorite …… and our only senator.  His opponent is a newcomer, not known (he almost got beat by his own blank votes), using someone’s name and reputation and he hasn’t raised much money.  The real Larry Price, a D, won’t comment but his radio friend, Michael W. Perry, has let voters know about the fake Laurence (aka Larry) Price.  Most writers also slammed Price, Laurence Price.  Slom campaigns at a minimum but, because of this D ploy, he is taking this “fake” seriously.  When H17 Ward and H19 Marumoto (several precincts combine for half of Slom’s district) got a free pass, it appeared to be good for Rs.  Unfortunately, that means less ground game in East Oahu.  Party and leadership are often at odds with Slom’s unwavering support of conservative principles so he won’t expect HRP or leadership support.  Kaauwai’s inference that Jewish Slom cannot be righteous hurts intra-party relations.  Caution:  See S25 “there are no R districts.”  Tea party, conservatives and business should focus here.

H27 R Ching incumbent v D Vasquez.  Ching always runs scared and gives Rs heartburn with her haphazard campaigning and weak fundraising……..and she keeps winning.  Ching should expect unchallenged Marumoto, Ward and Thielen to be standing next to her waving a a sign.

H32.  Open seat (R Finnegan) R Johanson v D Sharsh.  Johanson is campaigning effectively, can raise money and pulled only 20% blank votes.  Sharsh is not experienced and can’t raise money.  Johanson was ’04 HRP political director, worked in the Bush White House (and the Mint) and served as LG Aiona’s deputy chief of staff and in H32 Finnegan’s office.  I mentioned previously that we can’t compare primary raw numbers of votes because there are more Ds and they vote in their contested races; interesting number that doesn’t mean anything – even with D primaries across the state splitting the D vote, Johanson is one of only three Rs to have as many as 50% the raw number of votes as the D winner, including Gov race (Aiona 30% of Abercrombie total) and LG (Finnegan 32% of Schatz votes).  Johanson’s positions on the Akaka Bill and 2d Amendment may make conservatives hesitate.  Conservatives and the religious right should focus here.

H43. R Pine incumbent v D Bradshaw.  Pine runs scared and hard.  She is thoroughly in touch with her district.  The blog rumor (quelled for now) that she may look towards a November council bid won’t derail her.  She’s on this list to watch whether she again takes more than 60% of the vote (as in her previous elections), leads Ewa Beach Rs to wins and becomes the R House Leader.  Pine should expect the house caucus members to be focused on retaining one of their own with volunteer and fundraising help alongside tea party organizations that she has helped promote.

Next report:  Maybe.  We’ll see if there is major movement in the next week or two.