A few days removed from the craziness that was election day, it is now time to sort through the rubble and see where we stand. There were some surprises and some close calls. The results nationally really was in stark contrast from the results in Hawaii. Nationally Republicans benefited from an electorate angry with the slow recovery of the economy. Locally, Republicans took a huge blow in their hopes of keeping control of the governor’s office. Now it’s time to break down a few of the winners and losers from this past election in Hawaii and on the mainland.
The obvious national winners are the entire Republican Party after they 50+ seat pick up in the House and erasing the Democratic majority in the Senate. While falling short of controlling both houses, the GOP has a large majority in the House and will be able to prevent many of President Obama’s initiatives from moving forward. Ohio congressman, John Boehner is lining up to be the new Speaker of the House while Eric Cantor looks to become the new majority WHIP. A surprising national winner has to be Nevada Senator, Harry Reid. Reid was able to fend off a tough challenge from Republican candidate and TEA Party favorite, Sharon Angle to gain reelection and keep his spot as Senate Majority Leader.
In Hawaii, the winners have to be the Democratic Party. The 2010 elections solidified Hawaii’s long-standing tradition of being a blue state. In fact, Hawaii has the most lopsided state legislature of any state in the nation. 88% of all the members of the Hawaii state legislature are Democrats, beating out Rhode Island which sports 84%. Sen. Daniel Inouye cruised to a 50 point victory over his Republican challenger while Congresswoman Mazie Hirono easily won reelection with a 20 point margin. The real surprise came in Hawaii’s 1CD House race with incumbent Charles Djou(R) falling to Colleen Hanabusa(D) by 7 points. At the first printout, Djou trailed by about 4,000 votes. However, the subsequent printouts only put the Republican incumbent further behind. Hanabusa’s victory was the first time Hawaii voters had voted out a US Congressional incumbent.
But of course, the big winner was the Neil Abercrombie/Brian Schatz team. The Democratic team was able to trounce their GOP counterparts by nearly 100,000 votes. In fact, the final margin of victory was 17%. To make matter worse, of Hawaii’s 51 state house districts, Abercrombie was able to win 50 of the 51. It was surprising to many the sheer size of the victory for the long time US Congressman. Abercrombie single-handedly took down political giant, Mufi Hannemann and his GOP challenger, Duke Aiona. Abercrombie used an effective social media campaign to engage with the younger voters and was able to reestablish himself with the older voters whom he once represented while in the Honolulu City Council and Hawaii State Legislature.
On a night where House Republicans picked up more than 50 seats and Senate Republicans came close to taking the majority, the obvious losers are the Democratic Party. Democrats across the nation suffered defeat and many incumbents fell. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin saw his bid for reelection come up short. Feingold is best known for his efforts to reform immigration. The House Democrats will now be a highly outnumbered minority and will be at the will of Republicans. Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Reid will have some tough fights ahead now that he has a near stalemate with Republicans. President Obama must also be considered a loser of this election. He has now lost the majority in the House and has the prospects of a severely weakened Senate. Now more than ever will he need to sell his ideas to the public and work some magic if he hopes to have a second term.
Locally, the Hawaii GOP was not able to ride the so-called wave of change to victory. Hawaii Republicans are now left with only a single Senate seat and only a handful of House seats. Moreover, the Hawaii GOP invested heavily in the Djou and Aiona campaigns. However, their investments would not produce the returns they anticipated. A humiliating loss by Aiona was coupled with a bitter defeat for Djou. Many within the party felt 2010 was the best chance for Hawaii Republicans to take control of the government and to finally solidify itself as a major power in Hawaii. However, as the printouts were released, Republicans were left to wonder how and why this election turned out to be another drubbing from Hawaii Democrats.
The effects of this election will not be fully felt for another few years. However, one thing is certain: Hawaii really does buck national trends and chooses to do things a little differently. Whether this means a better Hawaii or something worse remains to be seen. At least we now have another couple of years to start the conversation of where our state and this country is heading and hopefully are able to find some solutions along the way.