Friday, January 17, 2003

10 TO WATCH IN 2003:

Case veers away
from party lines
in political stances

By Craig Gima

As a freshman lawmaker in the state House eight years ago, Democrat Ed Case was not afraid to challenge the status quo and take controversial positions on issues.

He argued against the "high three" pension benefit for lawmakers and the Supreme Court's appointment of Bishop Estate trustees, and voted against putting on the ballot a constitutional amendment proposal to empower the Legislature to disallow same-sex marriage.

Now Case is a freshman congressman and perhaps a future candidate for the U.S. Senate or for governor, and people will be listening to what he has to say and closely watching how he performs in office.

Ten to watch in 2003
The Star-Bulletin is spotlighting 10 people who may have a big impact on Hawaii this year.
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"My priorities will be directing the full resources of our federal government at addressing the 2nd District's concerns, like economic revitalization, education reform, environmental protection, health and senior care, crime and 'ice,' transportation and infrastructure, and native Hawaiian issues," Case said in a news release on the day of his election.

After being sworn in earlier this month, Case is back in Hawaii until just before the State of the Union speech on Jan. 28, meeting with constituents and attending the opening of the state Legislature. He said he plans to return to Hawaii as often as possible.

In the state House, Case had gone against majority Democrats and voted with Republicans to defeat a proposed increase in the general excise tax. He also led a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who challenged the leadership of then-House Speaker Joe Souki over the issue of limiting compensation for Bishop Estate trustees.

In Congress, Case will be part of a Democratic minority. But when asked about the Bush tax cuts, he indicated he may not vote solely along party lines.

"I have no problem at all supporting initiatives that are put forward by Republicans," he said, adding that he has not decided whether he will support the tax cuts.

Case believes his victory earlier this month is part of what may be a change in Hawaii politics: the rise of a new moderate majority.

"There are still old-style, traditional, liberal Democratic districts in our state, and they're represented by traditional, liberal Democratic representatives, but when you start talking about countywide, congressional-districtwide or statewide, it won't work anymore," he said in an interview two hours after his victory was announced.

"The candidates that represented that old style lost."

As for his future political plans, Case said he just wants to do his job in Congress and then see what happens.

"You don't know what politics is going to throw your way," Case said. "If you had asked me on Sept. 21 (the day he lost the Democratic primary for governor), would I have been serving a full two years in Congress, I would have told you, 'It's never going to happen.' You don't know what's going to happen in politics, so you can't rule anything out."

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