RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Rep. Ed Case announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate yesterday, running against incumbent Daniel Akaka. With Case at the news conference at his King Street campaign headquarters was his wife, Audrey.
THE RACE: Ed Case's surprise challenge to the longtime U.S. senator rocks the local Democratic Party
THE FALLOUT: Case's House seat is already drawing interest, while Democrats hope this will draw voters out
Called a loner by some, the future of the Democratic Party by others, U.S. Rep. Ed Case is shocking the established wing of the Democratic Party by deciding to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Daniel Akaka.
The two would face off in the Sept. 23 primary election, with the winner going on to face a Republican challenger.
Before Case's announcement, Akaka had no serious challenger from either major political party.
Case, who had previously said he would run for re-election, but always kept open the possibility of running for another office, said yesterday he was running for the Senate because Hawaii had to prepare for a new generation in Congress.
"For me, it is exactly the right thing to do, not just for me, for Hawaii. I don't look at it as a gamble; I look at it as the right thing to do," Case said, flanked by wife Audrey at a news conference.
"I have been thinking about it for the last year," Case said, adding that he had hoped that Akaka, 81, would retire and not run.
"I was hoping this would not be a campaign against Dan Akaka. The last thing I want to do is run against Sen. Akaka. This is not, please, this is not comfortable. It is unfortunate."
Case says he is running because "the reality of life is that we will not have our two current senators for an indefinite period into the future, and we have to think how we will move on, we want to have control how we move forward."
Akaka was not available for comment yesterday afternoon, but the head of his local campaign, Wayne Yamasaki, said they were ready for a race.
"We welcome challenges because challenges toughen the candidate. Sen. Akaka has a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Senate. He's ready to run on the issues and his accomplishments for the people of Hawaii," Yamasaki said.
In a prepared statement, Hawaii's other senator, Daniel Inouye, said Case's decision "stunned" him.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, left, and Wayne Yamasaki, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's campaign chairman, reacted strongly yesterday to Ed Case's announced candidacy.
"I have already assisted Sen. Akaka with his re-election effort, including helping him with fundraising. I intend to continue to give Sen. Akaka my support."
Inouye asked Case to withdraw from the campaign.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, in a hastily called news conference after Case's announcement, said he had spoken with Akaka and Inouye, although he was not specific on how Akaka reacted to the news.
Abercrombie, his voice shaking with emotion at times, said Akaka had his and Inouye's support, as well as the backing of his colleagues in Washington.
"I can assure you that the Senate Democrats are galvanized around Sen. Akaka's re-election," Abercrombie said. "They love him, you have to understand that. Sen. Akaka's support among his colleagues in Washington is universal."
Case has about $150,000 in his campaign treasury, while Akaka has more than $600,000, but both campaigns are expected to raise millions for a statewide campaign.
Case's critics have said privately that they considered him to be brash and not a party loyalist. In his four terms in the Legislature, Case went from being a Democratic leader to being an outsider who campaigned for civil service reform and was opposed by the politically powerful public employee unions.
Yesterday, Case said he could perform the job of U.S. senator "better than anyone else."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ed Case smiled to reporters before yesterday's news conference at his King Street headquarters announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate against longtime incumbent Daniel Akaka.
"It is clear that Sen. Akaka and I have differing political philosophies," he said. "Sen. Akaka has always represented one wing of the political spectrum, and I have always been a moderate middle-roader.
"Clearly I have struck a more moderate, independent voting pattern, where he has been more of a party loyalist," Case said.
The National Journal's Political Almanac describes Akaka as someone who, "although he has been in Congress since 1976, is not well known."
Described as a liberal, Akaka is known for his work on native Hawaiian sovereignty, according to the Journal.
The Akaka Bill, which would establish a way to recognize a native Hawaiian governing body, has been under consideration since July 2000.
Case said if elected, he would continue to support the bill in the Senate.
Case won a special election in 2002 to fill the 2nd Congressional District (Rural Oahu-Neighbor Islands) seat vacated with the death of Rep. Patsy Mink. He later was elected in a special election to serve a full term when the late congresswoman was re-elected despite her death.
Akaka had served 14 years in the House before he was appointed to replace Sen. Spark Matsunaga when he died of cancer in 1990.
Case is a cousin of America Online co-founder Steve Case.
Akaka was the first native Hawaiian elected a voting member of Congress. He became a special assistant to then-Gov. George Ariyoshi after losing the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 1974.
Star-Bulletin reporter B.J. Reyes and the Associated Press contributed to this report.