HONOLULU (AP) - In the wake of Republican Charles Djou's victory Saturday in the race for Hawaii's vacant congressional seat, Democrats are claiming they can retake the post in November.
But Republicans insisted Saturday that Djou's strong win in the special election should not be discounted and can be replicated in the fall general election.
Preliminary results showed Djou finishing with almost 40 percent of the vote, or about 67,600 votes. Democrats Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case garnered nearly 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively, or a combined total of more than 100,000 votes.
Colleen Hanabusa is congratulated by a supporter Saturday after finishing second in the 1st Congressional District special election.
That indicates that the district will swing back into Democratic hands in the fall, said Hawaii's senior senator, Democrat Daniel Inouye.
Djou ''won and I congratulate him,'' Inouye, who backed Hanabusa, told KHON. ''But I believe we can beat him in November.''
Neil Abercrombie, the Democrat who easily held the seat for almost 20 years before resigning in February to run for governor, agreed. ''The majority of voters in the district supported Democratic candidates in this special election,'' he said in a statement. ''I am confident that a Democrat will win the congressional race in the general election.''
The two Democratic contenders who battled one another and Djou in the special election said much of the same thing - though it was clear Saturday evening that only Hanabusa will definitely seek the Democratic nomination. Case at one point said he intends to run but subsequently said he would decide later.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, who with less than two full terms under her belt now becomes Hawaii's senior member of the House of Representatives, welcomed Djou's win.
''Apart from political differences, I look forward to collaborating with Charles to ensure the needs of the people of Hawaii are met and their voices heard in Congress,'' she said in a statement.
Hawaii Republicans were rejoicing Saturday as they haven't in eight years, when Linda Lingle became the first Republican to win the governor's office in four decades. And they weren't going to let the Democrats' November calculations dim their mood.
''They threw everything but the kitchen sink'' at Djou, former U.S. Rep. Pat Saiki, a Republican who left office in 1991, said at Djou's victory celebration.
''Word of caution - there's still November to come,'' added Saiki, Djou's campaign chairwoman. ''And this power grab that they're trying, they cannot succeed. We must elect Charles again!''
Republicans said they believe that significant numbers of moderate Democrats may not support Hanabusa in November if she is the Democratic nominee.
''A lot of the Ed Case supporters are people who would vote for Charles,'' said Lingle.
Djou on Saturday already was aiming at political prognosticators who would sell his win short.
''Tomorrow, I know there are going to be pundits out there who are going to try to minimize the significance of tonight's election,'' he told the crowd. ''These pundits are going to tell you to ignore the results of what happened here tonight. We're here to tell them they are wrong.''