The official position of the DCCC is supposed to be neutral in primary races, but they generally feel free to ignore that. And right now they are. They’re intervening in the two upcoming special elections for the vacated House seats of Neil Abercrombie and John Murtha. They’ve been working hard to push out candidates who were widely considered to be more electable locally on behalf of those with strong DC insider ties.
In the race to fill John Murtha’s vacated seat, the DCCC came in on the side of Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer who at one point questioned by the House Ethics Committee as part of the investigation of Murtha’s questionable defense industry earmarks. Former state treasurer Barbara Hafer was pushed out of the race, criticized for “attacking the Murtha legacy” after she pointed out that association with a DC ethics scandal might make someone a less than ideal candidate in the upcoming election.
Jerome Armstrong believes that Hafer was the more electable candidate. (AdamB notes that Hafer only filed 1013 signatures on her nominating petition, just over the 1000 needed, and might have been subject to a ballot challenge anyway — but that’s probably not something she would have had to worry about with the muscle of the DCCC and the party machine working on her side rather than against her.) Hafer is a pro-choice candidate and Critz is anti-choice.
The case of Colleen Hanabusa is even more mystifying. Politico reports that the DCCC contacted both Akaka and Inouye to tell them they’re considering coming in on the side of former congressman Ed Case, whom they believe to be “more electable” than Colleen Hanabusa. Both Senators are backing Hanabusa:
“We have to figure out how we convince them that it’s not in our interest to take a loss,” said a top Democratic official who is not involved in the DCCC’s efforts.
AFSCME, Emily’s List and most of the Hawaii Democratic establishment have also backed Hanabusa. But according to Politico, the DCCC is “providing under-the-radar organizational support” for Case, and circulating opposition research on Hanabusa that accuses her of being — a political insider.
Both Akaka and Inouye are still bitter about Case’s challenge to Akaka two years ago.
Hanabusa has raised considerably more money than Case, but Case has a more conservative voting record — something the DCCC evidently thinks will help them in a district that has a D+11 PVI. But the seat will go to whoever wins a plurality of the vote, Republican or Democrat, and Case’s presence in the race could throw it to the GOP.
Case has burned too many bridges in HI to get the full backing of the party. His staying in the race is probably the only way that the Republican could win with a plurality. This would be the time that you’d think the DCCC comes in and tells Case he doesn’t have a chance, but instead is working at tearing down Hanabusa.
Most of the DCCC’s actions can usually be explained by their desire to keep a congressional seat at all costs. But I frankly can’t come up with any good reason why they’re doing this. Hanabusa released a stupid ad last week claiming she had cut salaries as a state legislator, but she had accepted a pay raise. That seems pretty small potatoes next to a guy who will no doubt have John Murtha’s ethics scandal hung around his neck by the GOP, fairly or unfairly, and the DCCC is hanging all their Pennsylvania hopes on him.
Update: The National Journal has now put the Hawaii race on their list of “seats most likely to flip” in 2010 because of Case’s entry into the race:
Everyone knows the key for a GOP win here: Former Rep. Ed Case (D) and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D) split the Dem vote in the all-party May 22 special election, allowing Honolulu Councilor Charles Djou (R) to sneak through and win. Polling from earlier this year suggests Djou has a long way to go, but he’s already working to improve his name ID by airing a strong bio TV ad. Hanabusa and Case also have ads on the air, but things aren’t likely to stay positive for long, as they aren’t exactly the best of friends. If things get ugly, the door will open for Djou, and an improbable win for a Republican in a seat that gave Obama 70 percent.