Democrat Mark Takai and Republican Charles Djou are headed for a photo finish in the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

The candidates are tied at 45 percent each, with 9 percent of the electorate still undecided — even with election day just one week away.

Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted The Civil Beat Poll, said recent elections give an indication of where this contest might be headed.

“We’re seeing similar trends from how Djou has fared in previous elections and how Takai fared in the primary,” he said. “Takai got stronger closer to Election Day. Djou is a very formidable Republican candidate in a very tough district, but he’s got a ceiling. He was able to win it once in a three-way race, but the other times he came up a little short.”

Djou and Takai shake hands at end of Chamber of Commerce debate on September 23, 2014

Charles Djou and Mark Takai shake hands at end of a candidates forum, Sept. 23.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Third Time a Charm?

The three-way race was when Djou defeated Democrats Ed Case and Colleen Hanabusa in a May 2010 special election to fill out the remainder of the term of Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to run for governor. There were 11 other candidates on the ballot in the winner-take-all bout, but each collected less than o.5 percent of the vote.

Case elected not to run against Hanabusa in the Democratic primary that year, and Hanabusa went on to defeat Djou by 6 percentage points in the general election. In a rematch with Djou two years later, Hanabusa won by 9 percentage points.

Hanabusa’s unsuccessful challenge against U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary opened up the CD1 race. Takai came from behind in the polls to defeat six other candidates and become the nominee while Djou faces only nominal competition in his third time around for the CD1 ring (or fourth, if you include the special election).

While Takai, a state representative, is a Democrat in a state controlled by Democrats, Djou, a former state representative and Honolulu City Council member, has greater name recognition. But will that be enough for him to win?

CD1 poll trend Oct 2014

A Tightening Race

“We’ve always wondered if Djou did well in a tough Democratic district because he was an unusually good Republican candidate or if Hanabusa was not that strong of a Democratic candidate,” he said. “Her very strong effort in the U.S. Senate primary — a very good effort — shows just how strong of a candidate she really is, and that flatters the losing efforts of Djou even more.”

Hanabusa trailed Schatz in campaign money and most public opinion polls yet managed to pull within 1,782 votes in the special election in Puna on the Big Island, which was held a week after the Aug. 9 primary due to Tropical Storm Iselle.

What Djou has to worry about, however — and what might give Takai hope — is that Takai trailed Djou by 4 percentage points in late September. Now they’re in a dead heat.

This time around, Civil Beat surveyed 604 likely voters statewide Oct. 16-19. The poll, which sampled 70 percent landlines versus 30 percent cellphones, has a margin of error of 4 percent.

CD1 ethnicity poll Oct 2014

Landslide Wins for Schatz, Gabbard?

Another indication of how close the Djou-Takai slugfest appears to be is that there are not a lot of differences in terms of the latest poll’s demographics. Both candidates draw about the same voter support in terms of gender, age and income levels.

Both men are military veterans, and they attract similar levels of veteran support. Takai does better among union households, but not dramatically, even though labor traditionally aligns with Democrats.

The only area where there are clear differences in support is ethnic. Takai does very well among Japanese-Americans (Takai is Japanese-American) while Djou does very well among Filipinos, Hawaiians and Chinese (Djou is Thai-Chinese). Takai has the edge among white voters.

In Hawaii’s other congressional races this year, Schatz leads Republican Cam Cavasso 55 percent to 29 percent with 16 percent undecided. In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, is ahead of Republican Kawika Crowley 69 percent to 19 percent with 12 percent undecided.

Coming Wednesday: Poll results for constitutional amendment ballot question No. 4 regarding the use of public money for private preschools.

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