Dems better toss their hat into the ring
HOW should Hawaii's Democrats start planning their elections? A pair of anonymous e-mails bouncing around the state question whether the Democrats are making all they can out of the 2006 election.
The issue is not confined to the rumor mill. Democrats have spent much of the summer and fall stewing about a viable candidate for governor. The list has gone from former banker Walter Dods to Big Island Mayor and former Republican Harry Kim.
Riding along with these two seasons of Democratic angst are the worries that Hawaii's majority party must be able to deal itself a better hand in the upcoming elections.
The speculation is that at 81, Sen. Dan Akaka, who is almost 100 percent assured of re-election next year, should consider either stepping aside or coming home to run for governor.
Hawaii's other senator, Dan Inouye, has such a lock on seniority (he's third among the 100 senators) that he should remain in office as long as possible, the speculation goes.
But some wonder, "Does it make sense for Hawaii to keep two U.S. senators over the age of 80 in office?"
It should be noted that Akaka is not thinking about anything except his re-election next year. He has bulked up his media staff, which has turned the faucet wide open on press releases and news updates.
If Akaka is running for re-election, others say, "It makes strategic sense for Hawaii to have a new freshman senator ... and start building seniority now."
The e-mail and the speculation then list all the usual suspects -- Reps. Ed Case and Neil Abercrombie, former Gov. John Waihee and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Also in the mix would be former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga and former Honolulu City Councilman Duke Bainum. Even Sens. Colleen Hanabusa, Ron Menor and Donna Kim earn a mention.
The other rumor figures that Akaka should come home and run for governor. An opening in the Senate would lure Lingle into the race, where she would probably be matched against Case and might lose.
The speculation would have Lingle somehow thwarted or defanged. "In a few years, a term-limited Lingle will start looking for another big office ... 2006 is the year for Hawaii and Hawaii Democrats to make a move," the e-mail, sent to all state and county Democrats, warns.
Once again the Hawaii Democrats' time of uncertainty is upon them because they have no announced candidate for governor. A candidate would stop the speculation, give the party loyalists a battle to fight and rein in the boys-in-the-backroom plotters.
When I checked with party chairman Brickwood Galuteria by cell phone, if he didn't have a candidate, he at least had a sense of humor.
"I'm at Costco, but I don't see anything in the gubernatorial department. If I see anything on sale, I'll give you a call," he said, and he and the Democrats resumed shopping.
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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org