[ OUR OPINION ]
Ed Case will best represent
all people of the 2nd District
AS Hawaii voters have learned about the innovative and sound approach of Ed Case, the more obvious it has become that he represents what they want to be Hawaii's politics of today and tomorrow. Case understands that people want government policies that work rather than the worn-out ideological arguments from the left and right. Voters in the 2nd Congressional District should choose Case on Saturday to carry this message to the House.
Voters in the 2nd Congressional District will vote Saturday on who will be their representative in the U.S. House.
Just as Linda Lingle's promise for change in state government resounded with voters, Case's call for a new approach struck a chord with residents who had little previous awareness of him. After finishing a narrow second in this year's gubernatorial Democratic primary race -- he says with a grin that his support peaked after the election -- Case won a majority of the votes spread among 38 candidates in the contest to finish out the term of the late Rep. Patsy Mink.
At the age of 50, Case is no political novice with untested political theory. He worked as a legislative assistant in the 1970s for the late Rep. and Sen. Spark Matsunaga, whom he regards as his mentor, and was an effective legislator during four terms in the state House. Born and reared on the Big Island, Case is ingrained in the needs of the neighbor islands, which comprise most of the 2nd District.
STAR-BULLETIN PHOTO / 2002
Ed Case: A centrist approach coupled with an understanding of law
Unafraid of controversy, he has tackled explosive issues with bold resolve. As chairman of a House committee on Hawaiian affairs, Case suggested in 1998 that a special autonomy for Hawaiians might be the best way to ward off legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court later came to the same conclusion in striking down the state's restriction of voters in Office of Hawaiian Affairs trusteeship elections to Hawaiians. Case, a law clerk in 1981-82 to then-Hawaii Chief Justice William Richardson and an attorney in the law firm of Carlsmith Ball since 1983, understood that legal principles would win in federal court over conventional island politics.
When the House considered legislation two years ago to modernize Hawaii's civil-service system, Case was a determined supporter of reforms, which seemed likely to be enacted but were rejected in the end. "I saw an abuse of power," he said afterward. "I saw a system of internal consensus-building -- to which we had all subscribed -- basically get thrown out the window, and my colleagues go along with it." Most of those colleagues were mired in the past.
Case understandably decided against resuming his position as House majority leader in the following session. Most Democrats in the Legislature had caved in to pressure from labor unions, from which they received hefty campaign contributions, while Case was trying to improve government for all residents.
We have agreed with Case on nearly all issues, including civil-service reform, but more important perhaps has been -- and continues to be -- his manner of arriving at those positions. Issues change, but we expect his outlook to be unwavering.
"My natural approach to problem solving, whether it is personal or professional, is to be pretty linear," Case has said. "Let's take the sum total of your experience and thought, try to identify the problem, try to understand why people feel the way they do, identify options and then try to find a solution for the most number of people."
Fresh as such an approach may sound in Hawaii politics, it is not a new idea invented by Case. It is an understanding that was embraced in the organization of the Democratic Leadership Council in 1984 "to successfully challenge the conventional political wisdom in America and, in the process, redefine the center of the Democratic Party." The movement espouses "a third way that rejects the old left-right debate and affirms America's basic bargain: opportunity for all, responsibility for all, and community of all." Its founders included former President Bill Clinton.
Case has not endorsed or joined the DLC, but his centrist approach embodies the council's principles and is likely to bring him into coalescence with most recently elected House Democrats. Two-thirds of Democrats elected to the House since 1997 have joined the New Democrat Coalition, initiated in that year by the DLC. Far from being a renegade from his party, Case would feel at home in its largest House coalition.
Case's main opponents have clung to the politics of the past, adhering to the desires of powerful interest groups ranging from labor unions on the left to corporate political action committees on the right. Case seeks to find solutions that will extend to people of all circumstances throughout Hawaii and the nation.
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