HONOLULU — Democratic state Rep. Mark Takai defeated former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou in the closely watched race to represent Hawaii's 1st Congressional District, ensuring that both of Hawaii's House seats remain in Democratic control.
Takai edged Djou as they vied to replace Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who resigned to mount an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate.
In the 2nd District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard coasted to victory over her Republican challenger, Kawika Crowley.
Takai said he looks forward to working closely with the other Democrats in Hawaii's delegation in Washington — Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, along with Gabbard. He called it "a united Democratic delegation for Hawaii."
"This race was about values, was about our future, our future here, our children," he told supporters Tuesday night.
Djou, a Republican, held the seat representing urban Honolulu for seven months in 2010 after winning a three-way special election, but he lost to Hanabusa in 2010 and 2012.
"We gave it our all tonight and we tried our hardest," Djou said in conceding the race. "That dream that I have, that belief that I have, for building a strong two-party democracy, changing our government, transforming how Hawaii operates, is going to have to be deferred for yet another day."
Kim Johnson, a registered nurse in Honolulu, said she voted for Takai and liked his stand on trying to reduce student loan debt.
"Not everyone can get a job when they get right out of college and then they end up with this terrible debt which starts them off as a young adult in a very bad way," said Johnson, 62.
John Bell, a 58-year-old utility worker, said Djou is "very smart, very capable." Electing a Republican from Hawaii would have given the state a stronger voice in Washington, the Waikiki resident said, given that the chamber will remain in Republican control.
"I think he's got the rare ability to cross party lines, and work with the Democrats and Republicans," Bell said of Djou. "I think of all the candidates, he's the one I'm most excited about."
Gabbard, the first Hindu to serve in Congress, was elected to her second term representing suburban Honolulu and the neighbor islands in the U.S. House.
Gabbard's campaign manager, Dylan Beesley, said the congresswoman was not available for comment Tuesday because she was on National Guard duty as lava threatens the town of Pahoa on the Big Island.
Crowley owns his own record label and advertising agency and is a former lobbyist for smoking rights.