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StarBulletin.com

GOP facing uphill battle


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

After cruising through the primary election unopposed, two Republicans seeking to represent Hawaii in Congress will have to step up their campaigns to unseat Democratic U.S. Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Mazie Hirono in the Nov. 4 general contest.

The GOP hopefuls, Steve Tataii and Roger Evans, acknowledged they need to increase fundraising to boost their visibility after getting significantly fewer votes than the incumbents in the primary.

Tataii, 59, citing Hawaii's all-Democratic congressional delegation, argues that isle residents would benefit from having a more diverse team in Washington.

"All these years, we have only had the same old voices of four Democrats," he said.

If elected, Tataii said he would try to revise language of a bill to federally recognize native Hawaiians so that it may be accepted by Republicans who oppose it in part because of fears the legislation could allow Hawaii to secede from the United States or authorize gambling in the islands.

Tataii, as well as Libertarian candidate Li Zhao, will try to stop Abercrombie's bid for a 10th consecutive full term representing the 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Honolulu.

Abercrombie, 70, running unopposed, got more than 76,000 votes in the primary, well above Tataii's 13,088 and Zhao's 396. He could not be reached for comment.

Hirono, 60, also the sole Democrat in her primary race, is looking for a second term representing the 2nd Congressional District, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.

She said she wants to work on legislation to stimulate the economy, including renewable-energy tax incentives to help solar and biodiesel initiatives in Hawaii expand and create jobs.

"I'm not going to forget my focus on educational changes because that is still to me the foundation of how competitive we are going to be able to be," Hirono added.

Her main challenger, Evans, 69—who received 12,750 votes in the primary to Hirono's 73,822—said he would focus on raising money to buy newspaper ads and visit neighbor islands to encourage more Republicans to vote.

"To be effective at sign-waving—running for the office I'm running for—I really need to be all over the state," he said.

As of late September, Evans said he had just $110 in campaign funds, while Hirono reported having more than $530,000 at the end of August, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Hirono and Evans will be joined in the general election by Lloyd Mallan, Libertarian Party of Hawaii vice chairman, and independent candidate Shaun Stenshol.