The man who represents Hawaii Republicans’ best hope to pick up a congressional seat has a 4 percentage point lead over his Democratic opponent.
Charles Djou leads Mark Takai 46 percent to 42 percent in Civil Beat’s latest poll. Just 12 percent of voters are undecided.
The state has only sent three Republicans to Washington, D.C., since statehood in 1959, and Djou, a former state legislator and a former Honolulu City Councilman, is one of them. He won a special election to replace Neil Abercrombie in 2010 when the longtime congressman resigned to run successfully for governor.
But the special election was a winner-take-all contest that Djou won because Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case split the Democrats. Hanabusa won the seat outright later that year and held Djou off again in 2012, though he made a respectable showing in both elections.
In a state controlled by Democrats, Djou is not necessarily at an advantage over Takai.
“Djou is a real known quantity, and he’s well regarded,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted The Civil Beat Poll. “And he regularly finishes closer than you might expect. But this is his fourth candidacy for this office and it’s a tough district for a Republican to win.”
Fitch said Takai, despite having lower name recognition, demonstrated in the August primary that he can come from behind. The state representative trailed state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim for much of the race before winning by a large margin.
“He just came through a tough primary and he showed an ability to erase a deficit and win going away,” said Fitch. “It would not surprise me at all if Djou’s lead were to be gone by the next time we poll.”
Civil Beat surveyed 551 registered voters in the 1st Congressional District — essentially urban Oahu — Sept. 11-14. The poll, which sampled 75 percent land lines versus 25 percent cell phones, has a margin of error of 4.2 percent.
Takai, who is Japanese-American, draws more support from Japanese-Americans while Djou, who is Chinese-Thai, draws strong support from Chinese, Filipinos and Hawaiians.
Djou does better with voters under 50 but he and Takai split among older voters. There was not much difference, however, in terms of gender, income, military or union demographics.
Takai is a lieutenant colonel with the Hawaii National Guard and deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009. Djou is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2011-2012.
Though both are veterans, VoteVets.org is backing Takai, and supported him with TV ad buys in the primary. But Djou has been named a Young Gun by the National Republican Congressional Committee and can count on its support this fall.
Civil Beat will publish the cross tabulations for the CD1 race later Tuesday.
Vote Vets helped vault Democrat Tulsi Gabbard to victory in 2012 in the 2nd Congressional District. She faces the same Republican, Kawika Crowley, that she swamped two years ago.
According to the Civil Beat Poll, Gabbard is forecast to have a repeat performance this year. She leads Crowley 70 percent to 17 percent, with 13 percent undecided. For the CD2 poll, the sample size is 504 voters and the margin of error is 4.4 percent.
Brian Schatz, meanwhile, is ahead of GOP candidate Cam Cavasso 62 percent to 25 percent in the U.S. Senate race, with 13 percent undecided. Civil Beat surveyed 1,055 registered voters statewide for the Senate race. That poll has a margin of error of 3 percent.
Both races include Libertarian Party candidates, but Civil Beat did not poll them.
Fitch said it is possible that Schatz will get 70 percent of the vote Nov. 4, while Gabbard could win 80 percent in her race.
Coming Wednesday: Poll results for constitutional amendment questions on raising the retirement age for judges and justices, making public the names of Judicial Selection Commission nominees and using public money for private preschool programs.