U.S. Senate / U.S. House: 1st District (urban Oahu) / U.S. House 2nd District (Rural Oahu -- Neighbor Islands)
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mazie Hirono, accompanied by family members including brother Roy Hirono and mother Laura Hirono, greeted supporters on primary election night after the second printout showed her leading the Democratic race in the 2nd Congressional District, which she would win.
Popular Hogue has party disadvantage
Hirono's team is not taking lightly the race for Case's seat in the Democratic stronghold
For the U.S. House of Representatives, both of Hawaii's seats are being decided in the general election.
But just as in the primary, the main focus will be on the campaign to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands -- the open seat in the 2nd Congressional District that was created by Ed Case's decision to leave office and challenge U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Senate.
In the 1st Congressional District, representing Honolulu and urban Oahu, incumbent U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is expected to easily turn away a challenge from political newcomer Richard "Noah" Hough.
The more competitive race features former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono on the Democrats' side against GOP state Sen. Bob Hogue (R, Kaneohe-Kailua).
Although Hirono had a tougher primary -- facing off against nine fellow Democrats, compared with Hogue's two-man race -- most observers say Hogue faces the greater challenge running in a heavily Democratic district for a seat that once belonged to the late Patsy Mink, one of the most liberal members of Congress.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Republican opponent Bob Hogue, with wife Elaine, campaigned Oct. 13 at the Food and New Products Show in the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.
"Out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives, there are about 40 considered to be competitive -- this is not one of them by a long shot," said University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner. "Bob Hogue starts off with a distinct disadvantage."
But Hirono and the Democrats are not counting the race as won so quickly, saying it will be difficult to face an opponent who has a fair amount of name recognition and is generally known throughout the halls of the Legislature as a genuinely nice guy.
Their strategy will be similar to that of Democrats in other states: tie the Republican to unpopular policies of the Bush administration.
"Bob Hogue, I know him, I've worked with him and he's a good person," said state Democratic Party Chairman Mike McCartney, a former state senator, "but it's going to come down to issues.
"It's going to be more than just personalities. I think it's going to come down to how people are going to vote on the issues that face our country, and where they stand."
Hirono already has tried to highlight their differences on issues such as the No Child Left Behind Act, privatization of Social Security and most notably the war in Iraq.
"It is a major issue, and Bob Hogue supports the president on the war in Iraq and I don't," Hirono said. "The president continues to not face reality; he continues to give us slogans, not strategy. I want to see a strategy for peace. I want to see a strategy for getting us out of Iraq."
Hogue has voiced strong support for Bush and advocated a message of "peace through strength" at previous candidate forums.
The state GOP's message has been to tout Hogue's party affiliation as an advantage for the state.
"The fact that we have a congressional delegation made up of one party really is a limiting factor on our state's ability to move our issues forward in the U.S. House right now," Gov. Linda Lingle said. "Every time the Republicans go to caucus -- and they are in control of both houses -- we have no one who's in on that caucus."
Hogue, a former television sports broadcaster and MidWeek columnist, also continues to characterize himself as an "average person," stressing a positive campaign that he says is needed to cut through partisan bickering.
"I believe in being positive, and I know that the voters have responded to the good will that we've built up," he said.
While Hogue has been criticized, mainly by his primary opponent, for taking vague stances on issues, Milner said that could work in his favor.
"I think what Hogue has to do is to take advantage of his kind of sense of himself that he seems to sell pretty well, and that is the average-guy thing, which optimistically can cut across party lines," Milner said. "If you're trying to pick up the center, then having vague positions and selling yourself as much as, or more, than your policy position is a way to go."