HAWAII DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION
Akaka gets rousing support at convention
Opponent Ed Case is still confident after the state party convention
The state Democratic Party convention turned into a pre-election coronation ceremony for U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, who is battling a primary challenge from Rep. Ed Case.
The state party's most powerful Democrat, Sen. Dan Inouye, endorsed Akaka in a passionate, unprecedented introductory speech yesterday before the state Democratic convention held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
In response, Case later said he knew that challenging an incumbent senator would be difficult and he would find his support outside of the party regulars.
"This was a carefully orchestrated demonstration of support that I don't think translates outside this room," Case said.
But the roaring crowd, which party officials estimated at between 700 and 800 delegates, gave Akaka an enthusiastic standing ovation.
"This is something I have not done before," Inouye told the delegates.
"The Danny Akaka I know ... is a fellow with moral courage. He is someone with guts.
"At a time when we were told that a vote against the president would be anti-American and unpatriotic, he stood up.
"I look upon Dan Akaka as a great American and he is. I want to continue being his partner," Inouye said.
Case has argued he is running because at 81 Akaka is too old to be effective for many more years, while at 53 Case can devote several decades to Hawaii.
When Akaka spoke, he addressed the issue of age head-on, saying Hawaii needs someone with his seniority and three terms in the Senate.
"I believe that Hawaii needs all the seniority, experience and wisdom that we can muster in Washington, D.C.," Akaka said.
"This is no time for the fainthearted or the inexperienced," Akaka told the cheering crowd.
Akaka filled his speech with references to important political touchstones in the Democratic party including the 442 Regimental Combat Team, whose nisei veterans came back to Hawaii and reformed Hawaii politics by taking over the Democratic Party.
One veteran Democratic delegate, who asked that her name not be used, said the outpouring of support for Akaka made her uncomfortable and hoped that her fellow Democrats "would give both sides a neutral platform."
Outgoing party chairman Brickwood Galuteria said all of the candidates who were allowed to speak were given equal time on the stage.
Akaka had a television crew filming his speech and had Inouye introduce him, while Case was given a time slot later in the afternoon.
Inouye said that while he doesn't make endorsements in primary elections, Akaka is an incumbent and he has already been endorsed by the Senate Democratic campaign committee.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS @STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Rep. Ed Case, above, spoke with U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye yesterday at the Democratic convention.
In his speech, Case made an appeal for parity.
"We highlight the virtues of tolerance and big-tent inclusion, yet too many sense too often a growing intolerance and not-so-subtle exclusion that leaves some of feeling like unwelcome strangers in our land," Case said.
"We talk about our obligations to the future, but too often dwell in the past," he said.
One supporter said after Case's speech that the warm reception for Akaka would make her work harder for Case.
Aiea delegate Joyce Van Belkum said she was interested in Case because "he is young, vital and I liked what he said today.
"I am now wondering how I can be more supportive. We need someone who is young," Van Belkum said.
Other delegates such as Hilo County engineer and 20-year Democratic party veteran Robert Yanabu said: "Ed is the future of our party, but he should have waited. The biggest thing in Hawaii is respect."
A delegate from Maui, Kallie Keith-Agaran,* said Akaka would be hard to replace.
"He is unique. Ed would be a different kind of senator if he were there," Keith-Agaron said.
But for most delegates, the mood after the speeches was that the party establishment was solidly behind Akaka.
Big Island community activist George Yokoyama said he had supported Case in both his unsuccessful campaign for governor and his two successful congressional races, but he had been Akaka's Big Island campaign coordinator even longer.
"After that speech, how can he lose? It is Akaka all the way," Yokoyama said.
Early yesterday, Case had a run-in with several Maui delegates during a meeting with the Maui and Big Island delegations. Case said one woman told him he was too conservative and questioned why he was a Democrat.
"One person said, 'I have studied your voting record and I think you should resign,'" Case said.
"I said, 'That is what is wrong with the Democratic Party: Because I don't agree with you, your solution is I can't be a member of the Democratic party,'" Case said.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
» Kallie Keith-Agaran is a delegate from Maui who attended the state Democratic convention on Oahu over the weekend. Her last name was misspelled as Keith-Agaron in a Page A1 story in Sunday's paper.