Charles Djou

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Charles Djou
Charles Djou.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st district
In office
May 22, 2010 – January 3, 2011
Preceded byNeil Abercrombie
Succeeded byColleen Hanabusa
Member of the Honolulu City Council
from the 4th district
In office
December 2002 – May 22, 2010
Preceded byDuke Bainum
Succeeded byLee Donohue
Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives
from the 47th district
In office
January 1999 – December 2002
Preceded byIris Catalani
Succeeded byColleen Meyer
Personal details
Born (1970-08-09) August 9, 1970 (age 49)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Political partyIndependent (2018–present)
Other political
Republican (Before 2018)
Spouse(s)Stacey Kawasaki
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS)
University of Southern California (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
UnitUnited States Army Reserve

Charles Kong Djou (born August 9, 1970) is an American politician who served as the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 1st congressional district in 2010–11.[1] As a member of the Republican Party, Djou won his congressional seat in a May 2010 special election where the Democratic Party vote was split between several candidates, but was defeated in the general election in November after the Democratic primary provided a single opponent.[2] Djou, who was previously in the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Honolulu City Council, was the first Thai American of any party and the first Chinese American Republican to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. In June 2016, Djou entered the race for Mayor of Honolulu, which he lost 48% to 52% to Democratic Party incumbent Kirk Caldwell. Djou left the Republican Party in March 2018 in part due to dissatisfaction with the policies of Donald Trump.[3]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Born in Los Angeles, California, to a Chinese father from Shanghai and a Thai Chinese mother from Bangkok, Djou grew up in Hawaii after his father's employer transferred him there when Djou was three.[4][5] He graduated from high school at Punahou School, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Bachelor of Science in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating magna cum laude. He earned his law degree at the USC Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California.

Djou is a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve.[6] He has taught as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Hawaii and as an adjunct professor of political science at Hawaii Pacific University.

Djou was Vice Chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party from 1998 to 1999 and was later named legislator of the year by Small Business Hawaii in 2002, 2004, and 2006. In 2006 he was selected as one of the 40 most promising leaders in Hawaii under age 40 by Pacific Business News, and in 2005 was named by Honolulu Weekly as the "Best Politician" in the state.

Hawaii House of Representatives[edit]

Djou in 2002 as the GOP State House Floor Leader


In 1998, Djou ran as a Republican for the Hawaii State House of Representatives District 47 seat. He was unopposed in the primary election,[7] but lost to Iris Ikeda Catalani in the general election by 190 votes.[8]

In 2000, he again ran for the Hawaii State House of Representatives District 47 seat. Unopposed in the primary, he faced Catalani in the general election. Catalani faced controversy in the campaign, with allegations that she broke a promise to the Outdoor Circle, a community beautification organization,[9] by posting yard signs.[10] Djou won the race with 52.5 percent of the vote to Catalani's 44.2 percent.[11]


As a member of the State House of Representatives, Djou had one term in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 2000 to 2002 and was the Minority Floor Leader. Djou launched a successful campaign to open the State Budget worksheets to the public after being told he could look at the budget worksheets in the committee room but was not allowed to take any notes or make copies of them. The documents detail the budget for various state departments and agencies. He opposed the state "van cam" program launched in 2002 to catch speeders using automated cameras instead of police officers, and successfully campaigned for its elimination.

Honolulu City Council[edit]


Djou in 2004

In 2002, Djou announced he would run for the Honolulu City Council. He also announced he would move to East Honolulu (City Council District IV) from Kaneohe (City Council District III) to avoid running against fellow Republican Stan Koki.[12] Honolulu City and County elections are officially nonpartisan, and any candidate who wins a majority of the votes in the primary election can win outright. No candidate received a majority of the votes in the primary election,[13] so Djou and Robert Fishman, a former City Managing Director and Chief of Staff to the Governor, faced each other in a runoff in the general election. Djou won with 51.3 percent of the vote to Fishman's 39.2 percent.[14]

Djou ran for reelection to the Honolulu City Council. He was unopposed and won the seat by default.[15] Djou was subsequently the Hawaii co-chair of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's campaign for President in 2008.


In 2002, Djou was elected to the Honolulu City Council, representing District IV (Waikiki to Hawaii Kai). He was reelected in 2006 and was on the council until his election to Congress. On the City Council he was the Chairman of the Zoning Committee, Vice Chair of the Planning Committee and as a member of the Transportation and Public Safety & Services committees.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Rep.Charles K. Djou (R-Hawaii), with his wife and daughters, being sworn-in by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


2010 special[edit]

In March 2008, Djou announced well ahead of time that he would run for U.S. Congress in the 2010 cycle, seeking Hawaii's 1st congressional district seat.[16] The seat became vacant on February 28, 2010, when incumbent Neil Abercrombie resigned to run for Governor of Hawaii.[17] Abercrombie's resignation precipitated a special election on May 22, 2010, which Djou entered. Djou was endorsed by former Massachusetts Governor and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.[18] Djou subsequently endorsed Romney for president in the summer of 2011.[19] Former Hawaii Congresswoman Patricia Saiki, a Republican for whom Djou had once volunteered as a teenager, was Djou's campaign chair.

In the special election, Djou received 39.4 percent of the vote. He defeated five Democrats, four Republicans, and four independent candidates.[20][21] Among the candidates Djou defeated were former Congressman Ed Case and State Senator Colleen Hanabusa, two Democrats who together polled over 58% of the vote.[22] Djou was sworn in three days later and was in office for the remainder of Abercrombie's 2008 term. He was the first Republican to represent the district in 20 years. He followed Abercrombie and Patsy Mink as the third person to have been in the Honolulu City Council, Hawaii State Legislature and U.S. Congress, and was the first to be elected to all three chambers before age 40.

2010 general[edit]

Djou ran for a full term in November 2010.[22] There was some controversy over the use of robocalling by the Congressman's official U.S. House office, both before the election and afterward,[23][24][25][26] but as with all official mass communication between members of the House and their constituents, the phone survey conducted on behalf of Djou's office was approved by the bipartisan Franking Commission as an appropriate use of official resources for the purpose of communicating with constituents.[26]

Djou was defeated by Democratic nominee State Senator Colleen Hanabusa, 53% to 47%.[2] Djou was one of only two Republican incumbents (Joseph Cao was the other) to lose in the November 2, 2010, general election.


Djou serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2011

Djou announced on August 17, 2011, that he would challenge Hanabusa in Hawaii's 1st congressional district in 2012. A major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Djou suspended his campaign for six months while deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, from September 2011[27] to March 2012.[28] Djou lost to Hanabusa in the general election,[29] with 44.4% of the vote.[30]


Djou ran for the 1st district again in 2014.[31] Although he garnered a greater percentage of the vote in a general election than any other Republican running for Congress in Hawaii since 1988, he still narrowly lost to Democratic state representative Mark Takai, who received 51.2% of the vote.[32]

Committee assignments[edit]


Civil unions and gay marriage

Djou opposed Hawaii House Bill 444, a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act. He stated that lawmakers "ignored the will of the people" who enacted Hawaii Constitutional Amendment 2.[33]

Don't ask, don't tell

Djou was one of a handful of Congressional Republicans who voted in favor of an amendment to the 2011 Department of Defense Authorization Bill that would repeal the "Don't ask, don't tell" law and allow gays to serve in the U.S. military.[34]


Djou supported comprehensive immigration reform and was one of eight Republicans who voted for the DREAM Act to allow immigrants brought to the U.S. as children earn citizenship through service in the military or obtaining a college education and a job.[35]

South Korean Free Trade Agreement

On May 28, 2010, Djou spoke on the floor of the House in support of approving the South Korean Free Trade Agreement, which was signed by former President George W. Bush on June 30, 2007.[36] Congress approved the agreement on October 11, 2011.[37]

Candidate for Mayor of Honolulu[edit]

June 15, 2016 press announcement with Judge Walter Heen, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, and Councilmember Ann Kobayashi.

Djou announced on June 7, 2016 that he was running for the nonpartisan office of Mayor of Honolulu against incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell, former Mayor Peter Carlisle, and at least ten others. In the nonpartisan race, Djou had already received the endorsement of former Governor Ben Cayetano, an anti-rail Democrat.[38] On June 15, Djou announced that retired Federal Judge and former Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, Walter Heen, would chair Djou's campaign, and City Council member Ann Kobayashi, also a Democrat, supported Djou for mayor.[39] With no candidate receiving more than 50% of the vote on August 13, 2016, a decision between the top two candidates, Djou and Caldwell, would be made in the November 8, 2016 election.[40]

Caldwell defeated Djou, 52% to 48%.[41] Though both candidates supported the municipal rail project, its cost overruns were an issue, as well as Caldwell's alleged interference with the Ethics Commission. Labor group support was split between the pair.[42] Djou is the only Republican to have received over 45% of the general election vote in Hawaii for any statewide, Honolulu county-wide or Hawaii congressional election since 2006.

Later career[edit]

Djou departed the Republican Party in March 2018, citing concerns about President Donald Trump's policies and personal character.[43][44]

Personal life[edit]

Charles Djou and Family

Djou is married to Stacey Kawasaki Djou, a Japanese American. They have three children. His surname is a French transliteration of the Chinese surname Zhou.[45]

Djou was on the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association and a member of the Neighborhood Board. He is a member of the Young Business Roundtable, the Rotary Club, and the Hawaii Telecommunications Association.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Rep. District 1 Special Vacancy Election – State of Hawaii – Statewide May 22, 2010. Accessed May 22, 2010
  2. ^ a b Goodin, Emily (November 3, 2010). "Dems pick up Hawaii seat". The Hill.
  3. ^ Staff (March 19, 2018). "Djou abandons Republican Party because of Trump". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  4. ^ Nakaso, Dan (May 26, 2010). "Djou welcomed in Congress". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved July 9, 2018. son of immigrant parents from Shanghai and Bangkok
  5. ^ Hawaii Republicans are pinning big hopes on a Djou victory
  6. ^ "About Charles Djou". Team Djou. Archived from the original on June 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "Elections". Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  8. ^ "1998 General Elections Precinct Report". November 3, 1998. Retrieved August 23, 2010. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  9. ^ Hill, Tiffany (November 8, 2012). "The Outdoor Circle Celebrates 100 Years Beautifying Honolulu". Honolulu. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  10. ^ Kua, Crystal. Outdoor Circle says candidate broke yard-sign pledge. Honolulu Star-Bulletin (October 31, 2000)
  11. ^ Hawaii 2000 election results, race between Djou and Catalani
  12. ^ Pang, Gordon Y. K. Exodus enlivens Council races. Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
  13. ^ "Open Primary Election 2002 (results)" (PDF). Election Results. Honolulu, HI: Office of Elections, State of Hawaii. September 28, 2002. p. 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  14. ^ "General Election 2002 – STATE OF HAWAII – STATEWIDE" (PDF). Retrieved August 23, 2010.
  15. ^ Boyland, Peter (March 22, 2008). "Charles Djou to run for Congress in 2010". The Honolulu Advertiser.
  16. ^ "Djou to run for Congress in 2010". Honolulu Advertiser. March 22, 2008. Archived from the original on May 2, 2008. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  17. ^ "Special mail election to fill Abercrombie seat is May 22". Honolulu Advertiser. March 3, 2010. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  18. ^ "Romney wades into Hawaii special election, raises $1.5 million for PAC". The Washington Post. April 12, 2010.
  19. ^ "Mitt Romney wins Charles Djou primary". Politico. August 30, 2010.
  20. ^ State of Hawaii Office of Elections (February 24, 2010). "FACTSHEET 2010 SPECIAL ELECTION U.S. House of Representatives, District 1" (PDF). Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  21. ^ U.S. Rep District I Special Vacancy Election – State of Hawaii – Statewide
  22. ^ a b "GOP's Djou wins Hawaii special election for Congress". The Honolulu Advertiser. May 22, 2010. Archived from the original on May 25, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  23. ^ "Hawaii governor's 'robocall' urges vote for Djou". The Honolulu Advertiser. May 17, 2010. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  24. ^ "Lingle 'robocall' urges voters to choose Djou". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. May 17, 2010. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  25. ^ "Djou camp marshals radio, TV and phone". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. May 18, 2010. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  26. ^ a b "Tax Dollars Paid For Djou's Robo-Calls". KITV. June 16, 2010. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  27. ^ "Djou announces run for Congress, will deploy to Afghanistan". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. August 17, 2011.
  28. ^ "Hawaii ex-lawmaker Djou serves Afghanistan stint". Associated Press. March 5, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  29. ^ "Hanabusa defeats Djou for US House". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Communications Inc. Associated Press. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  30. ^ "Hawaii General 2012 – State of Hawaii – Statewide" (PDF). Office of Elections. State of Hawaii. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  31. ^ Ian Scheuring (March 21, 2014). "State GOP chair confirms Djou congressional run". Hawaii News Now.
  32. ^ "2014 Certified Election Results". Hawaii Office of Elections. State of Hawaii. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
  33. ^ "What he's Djou-ing here". Honolulu Weekly. May 9, 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  34. ^ "House Vote 317 – Allows Repeal of Ban on Gays in Military". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 31, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  35. ^ "DREAM Act Passes Congress". December 13, 2010. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
  36. ^ Djou, Charles (May 28, 2010). "Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI) calls for South Korea free trade agreement". The Hill.
  37. ^ Martin, Eric; McQuillen, William (October 13, 2011). "Congress Approves Biggest U.S. Trade Agreement Since 1994". Business Week. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  38. ^ HNN Staff (June 7, 2016). "Charles Djou announces he's running for mayor". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  39. ^ Chad Blair (June 15, 2016). "Djou Gets Some Democratic Support In Campaign For Mayor". Civil Beat. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  40. ^ "Caldwell fails to clinch majority, will face off against Djou in November". Hawaii News Now. August 13, 2016. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
  41. ^ Honolulu, Hawaii Mayor: Results: Kirk Caldwell Leads, The New York Times, November 10, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  42. ^ Mayor Kirk Caldwell Re-Elected Over Charles Djou, Honolulu Civil Beat, Chad Blair, November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  43. ^ Charles Djou: Why I’m Leaving The GOP, Honolulu Civil Beat, Charles Djou, March 19, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2018.
  44. ^ Savransky, Rebecca (March 19, 2018). "Former Republican Lawmaker Announces He's Leaving GOP, Tears Into Trump". The Hill. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  45. ^ a b "About Charles – Team Djou". Team Djou. Honolulu, HI, USA: Djou for Hawaii. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2013.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Neil Abercrombie
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Colleen Hanabusa