Ex-POW enters race for U.S. Senate
Jerry Coffee, retired Navy captain and prisoner of war in North Vietnam, will run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican.
Coffee, who was encouraged to run for the state House in 2004 by Gov. Linda Lingle, was supported during yesterday's announcement by Lingle, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and a group of local GOP leaders.
"I am a big supporter of Jerry Coffee. I think he is a terrific candidate and will make it a very exciting race," Lingle said.
"It is really in the public's interest to have at least one person in Washington who is from the Republican Party, and we could not have a better candidate than Jerry Coffee," Lingle said to reporters.
Already running for the Senate are incumbent Democrat Sen. Dan Akaka and U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
Coffee, who lost to Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa) by 54 votes in 2004, picked the Vietnam and Korean War memorial on the grounds of the state Capitol as the site of his announcement to highlight both his 28-year career as a naval flight officer and a POW in Hanoi for seven years.
Coffee's former prisonmates include Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Orson Swindle, a Republican candidate for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District seat in 1994 and 1996.
"I have seen the face of our enemy up close and personal and that gives me an edge when we talk about our enemy of the present," Coffee said.
Asked about the war in Iraq, Coffee said he supports President Bush's decision to invade and a continued presence until "the people of Iraq can stand on their own two feet with their own army and their own militia, police force and an operating democracy."
Coffee, who writes a column for MidWeek, said he won't start campaigning until August, when he returns from a mission to Africa, serving with an orphanage coordinated through a faith-based organization, Heart for Africa, a commitment he made before deciding to run for the senate.
Coffee also said he thought the native Hawaiian sovereignty bill championed by Akaka will not likely be brought up in the Senate again.