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Uh Oh: Unions vs. National Dem Party in Hawaii

Dispatches from the other party's civil war.

9:40 AM, Apr 12, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Hawaii's special election to fill Rep. Neil Abercrombie's seat has been getting generous buzz for a week as Republican candidate Charles Djou has unexpectedly pulled even with possible Democrat challengers in Obama's home district. Abercrombie is running for governor.

The "National Democrats increasingly worried about special election in Hawaii" story made an appearance in national political headlines every day of last week as Djou held strong and Democrats became increasingly fractured on their candidate choice.

Djou will run in a three-way, winner-take-all contest against two well-known Democrats in an election conducted via mail-in ballot between May 2 and May 22. National Democrats are somewhat quietly putting their weight behind former Rep. Ed Case, but powerful local unions are backing state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa.

Labor unions are set to drop 2 mail pieces in support of Hanabusa this week, a source tells Hotline OnCall, aimed at convincing union workers that Case's record is out of step with labor's political goals. An AFL-CIO mailer and one from the Longshoreman's union highlight some issues on which Case stands against labor positions while touting Hanabusa's work on unions' behalf.

Hanabusa has backing from the HI teachers union, a powerful force in state politics. And the mailers are aimed at the district's 52K AFL-CIO members and 30K Working America members, according to union figures, a significant portion of the electorate.

According to internal polling leaked last week and linked above, Case runs better against Djou than Hanabusa.

The DCCC paid for an anti-Djou ad that subtly preferred Case over Hanabusa ("Hawaii needs a Congressman on our side."). Jim Geraghty notes that the Democratic Party's dirt-digging, as in the case of Scott Brown, has been rather underwhelming if this ad is any indication:

The DCCC is getting involved in Hawaii's special House election, except that the Republican candidate, Charles Djou, is about as menacing as a Care Bear. So their line of attack is . . . for signing a pledge not to raise taxes. Djou signed the Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, stating that he opposes any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar-for-dollar by further reducing tax rates.

The DCCC contends Djou is "protecting tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas." And every other company, and every other individual. You might as well argue he is protecting tax breaks for serial killers, too.

A dead heat, a split, unenthusiastic Democratic field, and an ineffective line of attack on Djou? National political reporters are lining up to ask their bosses to send them to Hawaii as we speak. Rough job, but someone's gotta do it.

It's not the first time this week that unions have publicly disagreed with Democratic allies. The SEIU started a third party in North Carolina as "part of an effort to make the Democratic Party more reliable on issues important to labor" and has field organizers gathering signatures to qualify it as a state party. It remains to be seen if it will field candidates or how viable they'll be, but it's worth noting while the media is gleefully reporting that the Tea Party will be a spoiler for Republican candidates.

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