Dems 'shocked' but hope voters will rally
Case's bid could bring out more voters, party officials predict
Bart Dame had heard the rumors. And he didn't believe them.
There was no way, he thought, that U.S. Rep. Ed Case would challenge Washington veteran and Hawaii icon Dan Akaka.
"I'm surprised and shocked," the longtime Democratic Party of Hawaii activist said last night after hearing about Case's announcement to run for Akaka's Senate seat. "He's taking a gamble. I think that a lot of people have aloha for Sen. Akaka on a personal level. No other candidate can match that."
Other longtime Democrats agreed but also said that Case's decision to run could be just the spark that the party needs to bring more people to the polls.
"This particular challenge will rally the voters," said party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria yesterday, adding he must remain "neutral" on Case's announcement. "If history proves itself, the more people that come to the polls, the Democrats win."
Galuteria said the state has seen similar unexpected challenges against longtime incumbents, including former Govs. John Waihee and John Burns. He also said Case's announcement has "stunned" residents -- along with many in the party.
George Waialeale, former treasurer of the Democratic Party of Hawaii who has worked with Case and Akaka in the past, said both men are "well qualified" for the Senate seat.
But "the timing is terrible," he added. "Sen. Akaka is still capable of doing his job. He hasn't finished what he set out to do."
Waialeale said Case could win votes because many see him as an "up-and-coming politician" and the "future generation."
Also, Akaka has lost some support among local environmental groups for his decision to vote for drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge. But Dame said progressives also disagree with Case on a number of issues.
Waialeale said he hopes Case's run will "reinvigorate" the party and bring people out to vote. "This is a good test for our party. We don't anoint anyone," he said. "This will bring voters a choice, and you'll definitely get more people voting."
He also said it will be interesting to see who steps up to run for Case's seat.