Sen. Dan Akaka and the challenger for his seat, Rep. Ed Case, chat before a joint session in the state Legislature.
'Old guard' has Senate advantage, insiders say
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka is the pick of Hawaii insiders.
A survey of 75 politically active, bipartisan lobbyists, legislators and Neighborhood Board chairmen shows a majority of the insiders figure Akaka will beat his Democratic primary opponent U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
Twenty-two insiders said Akaka would win, while only three predicted victory for Case.
In all, 32 insiders responded to the survey. Seven said they didn't know who would win the race in September.
While nearly all agreed that Akaka would win, almost all also said that Case would come close.
"Dan Akaka will win the Senate race by a very slim margin. And he will be lucky to complete his term. Ed Case will slowly disappear in the history books," the Rev. Frank Chong, a lobbyist, predicted.
"Sadly, I think Akaka will prevail. He has the money, the old guard behind him as well as big labor," said one GOP lobbyist.
A Democratic lobbyist said Case failed to make a strong showing at the Democratic state convention and that shows his weakness.
"Case had to 'prove' that Danny was broken down, decrepit, doddering, unsound, worn out. Instead, Akaka tore his head off at the convention, and (Sen. Dan) Inouye and (Rep. Neil) Abercrombie kicked it around the playing field for a day and a half.
"I will guess that had (Gov.) Linda Lingle spoken at the Democratic Party Convention, her record and her views would have been found to be more compatible than his. And it is likely that she would have been treated better, because, for one thing, she is warmer, more down to earth and more likable," the lobbyist said.
University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner looked at the insider's responses and cautioned that political insiders might not be the controlling factor in the Akaka-Case campaign.
Insiders are likely to reflect the conventional wisdom in the Democratic Party, which might not be what all the voters think.
"There is a dismissive and patronizing tone regarding what (Case) is doing and that may mean that they underestimate him," Milner warned.
One lobbyist and Democratic political veteran observed, however, that the Akaka-Case race could be a replay of Akaka's come-from-behind victory over former U.S. Rep. Pat Saiki in 1990.
"Sen. Akaka will win the Democratic primary. ... In 1990 Sen. Inouye rallied the voters to support Akaka and defeated Pat Saiki," he recalled.
And a Neighborhood Board chairman said that Case "has some very valid points about getting someone younger into the Senate now while Inouye is still in, but it really annoyed a number of people with the manner in which he went about entering the race."
A Democratic lobbyist speculated that the Democrats could change their mind on supporting Akaka if a major Republican such as Lingle entered the race.
Although Lingle has repeatedly said she wouldn't jump in the contest, this Democrat said if she did run it could cause Democrats to support Case "to secure the middle."
Another Democrat, a legislator, said the Senate was like a football game in the first quarter. "At this point Akaka has a slim lead," the legislator said.
And finally, a Neighborhood Board chairman said that while "Sen. Akaka most likely will prevail, Rep. Case would be a better representative. It is time for a change and the party is too large and resistant to change."