By Mike Soraghan and Aaron Blake - 12/11/09 10:42 PM EST
Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is running for governor of Hawaii, announced Friday he's resigning his seat.
"I’ve concluded that I must resign my congressional seat and allow
someone to be elected who will carry on the work of this office,"
Abercrombie said in a statement.
According to Hawaii law, the election would be held no earlier than 70 days after the vacancy. Beyond that, it can be held at any time.
The special election would be a “winner-take-all” affair, in which all candidates would be thrown into one field, regardless of party.
That could help Republican candidate Charles Djou, who is unopposed on the GOP side. Meanwhile, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case are battling it out on the Democratic side. Case represented the state’s other district before unsuccessfully challenging Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in a 2006 primary.
The format of the race will put a premium on parties keeping a high number of their candidates out of the race. That could be easier for the GOP, considering they have far fewer elected officials in the state.
Republicans were already high on Djou’s chances in the race before Abercrombie’s resignation, and that’s only likely to grow now.
“Especially as independent voters are feeling alienated by the Democrat(ic) Party and trending toward the Republican Party, this is a prime opportunity for us to pick up a seat,” said a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Joanna Burgos. “The clear frontrunner at this point is Honolulu City Councilman and Army reservist Charles Djou, who is ready to come to Congress to create jobs for the people of Hawaii and fight for lower taxes and end reckless spending.”
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said Democrats will count on Abercrombie’s help to keep the seat Democratic.
“On behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I thank Rep. Abercrombie for his extraordinary leadership and look forward to his help in filling the open seat in Hawaii’s 1st district with a Democrat who shares his commitment to fighting for the best interests of Hawaii’s middle class families,” Van Hollen said.
Shortly after Abercrombie's statement was issued Friday afternoon, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led Abercrombie into her office on the House floor.
-- Sean J. Miller contributed to this article.
— This article was originally posted at 3:10 p.m.