Republican Charles Djou was defeated by Hawaii state Rep. Mark Takai (D) in the state's 1st Congressional District Tuesday.
Djou was a member of Congress representing the district until Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) defeated him in 2010. He ran unsuccessfully to reclaim the seat in 2012.
The district race quickly became one of the most closely watched contests in Hawaii after the Aug. 9 primary.
Takai, a state representative for the past 20 years, had to beat six other Democrats to move on to the general election, depleting his campaign account in the process. Djou emerged from the primary unscathed and held a sizable financial advantage this summer.
But political action committees on the mainland and donors in Hawaii quickly poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Takai's campaign to help him take on Djou, a former Honolulu City Councilman.
The race was close throughout the election. As November neared, super PACs started dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into attack ads that both candidates had to deflect and defend. Djou supporters went after Takai's vote in the state House on a bill to tax pensions and Takai supporters went after Djou's votes in Congress related to welfare programs.
Takai, 47, and Djou, 44, are centrists in their parties and have much in common. Both are family men who grew up in Hawaii, serve in the military and have years of experience in elected office.
Djou, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, and Takai, a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard, have both done stints in the Middle East.
And both candidates said they wanted to protect entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, but that reform is needed.
But there were fundamental differences between the two.
Takai was buoyed early this election season by an endorsement from the 13,000-strong Hawaii State Teachers Association and other unions.
Djou said he wanted to exempt Hawaii from the Jones Act to reduce the cost of living and break up shipping monopolies. Takai said the maritime law is key to protecting jobs and national security.
Within the last year, Takai came around on supporting gay marriage, whereas Djou said he was troubled by the Legislature’s decision in 2013 to no longer limit marriage to being between a man and a woman.
When it comes to health care, Djou opposed the enactment of Obamacare while Takai said the nation is better off as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act, despite its problems.
The 1st District seat opened when Hanabusa decided to challenge Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
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