But it was a shocker that Djou, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, will also deploy to Afghanistan for six months beginning after Labor Day.
“I know that the timing of my deployment is not ideal,” Djou said at a press conference in Honolulu’s Kapalama warehouse area. “And I realize this is enormously disruptive to myself and my family, and of course to this campaign. But I also realize that it is no more than what 100,000 families are currently going through with a loved one in harm’s way.”
Djou, who spoke as his wife and two young daughters stood at his side, continued: “The burden of defending our great country does not fall evenly upon all families in America. I am proud that I can do my small part.”
$234K Already Raised
Djou’s deployment puts a crimp on his ability to raise money for his campaign.
While his latest federal filing shows that he has $234,000 in cash on hand, Djou spent $2 million in 2010 to get elected.
Of course, Djou had to compete in three elections, not just a primary and general. He was sent to Congress as a result of the winner-take-all special election in May 2010 and served until Jan. 3, 2011, when the general election victor, Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, was sworn in.
Djou said he would not directly be involved in fundraising while serving abroad but that his “very capable” campaign team would continue the task in his absence.
Djou is unlikely to face a serious primary opponent — unlike Democrats, the GOP does not have a deep bench.
It is not clear, however, that Hanabusa will be the Democratic candidate. She is expected to decide soon whether she will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Akaka.
Hanabusa told Civil Beat’s Adrienne LaFrance Wednesday before Djou’s formal announcement, “If I’m running for re-election for my particular seat, I think I look forward to the debates that we will have. Like I’ve told people, in the short period of time that I’ve been in Congress, it has been such an experience, and a positive experience for me.”
Hanabusa did not appear threatened by Djou, whom she defeated by 6 percentage points last November.
“Right now, we’ve almost been in there for an equal number of months,” she said, referring to Djou’s just over seven months in office. “I can defend my record.”
Hanabusa’s campaign released this brief statement following Djou’s announcement: “We should all support giving voters a choice.”
A Lingle Republican in Obamaland
Djou, 41, was asked how he would run his campaign differently this time. He is, after all, the only Hawaii congressional incumbent to lose re-election.
Djou said he would stress his record in Congress, a record he described as centrist.
“We need people who are more in the middle of the aisle who can talk to both Democrats and Republicans alike,” he said.
Djou said too many congressmen were on the “extreme,” and he included Hanabusa and Mazie Hirono among them because they voted “in lock-step with Democrats.” He said he agreed with President Barack Obama that members of the Tea Party have “legitimate concerns” but that more collaboration was needed for the greater good of the country.
Djou said “things have gotten worse, not better” in Washington since he left office. A top issue will be job creation. He also said he would have voted to raise the debt ceiling but only with the stipulation that spending would be cut and capped.
And, while Djou reminded people that he has never voted in favor of a tax increase, he reiterated that bipartisan governing was necessary. He pointed out that he supported the recommendations of Obama’s deficit- and debt- reduction commission, co-chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, which produced a plan that called for huge tax increases.
What about running in a presidential election year in which the Hawaii-born incumbent is on the ballot?
Djou responded that he was not running for president but rather to represent the 1st Congressional District. He said that Linda Lingle was re-elected governor in a landslide in 2006, the same year Sen. Akaka was handily re-elected to the Senate.
“I am under no illusions that it will be difficult, but I think it’s possible that it can be done,” he said of his 2012 race. “The people of Hawaii have a record of splitting their votes.”
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