Akaka ready to battle Case
The U.S. senator says he is in good health and is looking forward to the challenge
Joking that friends call him the "bionic man," U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka says he is energized and ready for a campaign challenge from U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
"I wanted him to know I wasn't retiring. He (Ed Case) did most of the talking, explaining why he was running. He was pleasant."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka
call from Case
Case shocked establishment Democrats Thursday by announcing he would run against Akaka, a 30-year veteran of Congress who has served in the Senate since 1990.
Akaka is 81. Case is 53 and said one of the reasons he is running is to provide Hawaii with a new generation of leaders in Washington.
In a phone call from Washington yesterday, Akaka said he is not looking to retire.
"I am in Washington because I love our state and I care about the people of Hawaii," he said.
In 2000, Akaka had his right hip replaced. His right knee was replaced in 2001, followed by his left knee in 2002 -- hence the "bionic man" moniker.
Although he sometimes walks stiffly, Akaka said he had a clean bill of health from his doctors and is thankful that "my wife, Millie, has done such a good job keeping me in good health."
"If my health is the (campaign) issue, I am lucky because I feel great," Akaka said.
Akaka said Case called him on Thursday morning to say he would oppose him in the Sept. 23 primary election.
"It was good for him to call me directly. I thanked him calling me, and I said, 'I want you to know that I am running for re-election,'" Akaka said.
"I wanted him to know I wasn't retiring. He (Case) did most of the talking, explaining why he was running. He was pleasant," Akaka said.
The Case race did not surprise him, Akaka said, adding that friends and lobbyists had said they thought Case would enter the race.
Previously, Case, a former state legislator, had said he was likely to run for re-election but would not rule out a campaign for another office.
Akaka said Hawaii's senior senator, Daniel Inouye and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., both attempted to talk Case out of opposing Akaka.
"There is a feeling here from some folks that he shouldn't be running, but he has every right to run and I am looking forward to the challenge," Akaka said.
By announcing for the Senate, Case opens up his congressional seat, setting up a race for his 2nd Congressional District (rural Oahu and neighbor islands) office.
Yesterday, two more Democrats said they would run.
State Sen. Ron Menor, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress 15 years ago, said he would again run.
Menor (D, Mililani), an attorney, is one of the strongest proponents of the state's gas cap legislation.
Like other incumbents who are not running for re-election this year, Menor does not have to resign his office to run for the federal seat.
Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono also said she would run for Case's congressional seat. Hirono lost the race for governor to Linda Lingle four years ago.
Since then, she said, she has been lecturing on the mainland and in Japan and "replenishing myself by doing the things I enjoy."
Other candidates for Case's seat include Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) and Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Tantalus-Makiki). Only Schatz must forgo a re-election bid to run for the House seat.
Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau) also officially announced his candidacy yesterday, surrounded by supporters.
"I believe living in the 2nd Congressional District the last 26 years gives me a certain understanding that maybe other candidates may lack," said Hooser, 52, a former member of the Kauai County Council and the only candidate from the neighbor islands to declare his candidacy so far for the race. "I want to be there (in Washington) to fight for those values."
Gov. Linda Lingle, however, made it clear that the only election she will be entering this fall will be to win a second term. She also said the current shake-up is good for Hawaii politics.
"It a positive development for the voters of the state. It will increase awareness of the upcoming election, which would boost voter turnout. And I think anything that involves more people in voting is a positive thing for our state and for our country," she said.
Hawaii was last in the nation for voter turnout during last fall's general election, with only half of eligible voters turning up at the polls, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Star-Bulletin reporter Crystal Kua and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
BACK TO TOP
Case: On track or "ahead of my time"
In 1998 then state representative Ed Case supported a bill to consolidate the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands under one agency, all the while knowing his efforts would result in harsh criticism and backlash from the Native Hawaiian community.
Fast forward to eight years later and Case is again doing what he thinks is right by running for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat despite the backlash he knew would erupt from local Democrats. Case said he already prepared his congressional staff about what to expect.
“I told them we’re going to have ... a bit of a stretch here,” he said. “We will be criticized and we will be called disloyal, and we will be questioned for our motives, and there’s going to be a lot of stuff flying around.
“My Democratic Party has a very very hard time with change, I think we all know that at this point.”
While moving forward with his campaign without the blessing of some key local Democrats might be seen as risky, Case said he feels he needs to act now. And he pointed to how the Democratic Party still does not have a viable candidate to challenge Gov. Linda Lingle in her bid for reelection this year.
“My Democratic Party is in the state it is in the governor’s race because it has failed to talk about the development of candidates and therefore it finds itself scrambling,” Case said. “Everybody that tries to climb out of that pail gets yanked back down.
“That’s how we lost the governor’s race and that’s how we’re on the track of losing it again.”
Looking back at the DHHL/OHA proposal, Case said the merger might have been “ahead of its time.” But he feels he’s listened to enough voters to know that he’s on track this time.
“This decision was as much a decision of what I believed was necessary as much as people simply talking to me,” Case said. “I get the common refrain all the time — time for a change, time for a change in the U.S. Senate, we need to move on, we need to make that transition, I’m concerned that we have two 81-year-old senators.
“I don’t have any question whether this is the track we should be on, but I’ll find out in September if I’m ahead of my time again.”