Democrats still seek opponent to face Lingle
Party leaders think that Big Island Mayor Harry Kim has the best chance
One week before the deadline to run for office, it is unclear whether a surprise challenger will step forward to oppose Gov. Linda Lingle or if Republicans can mount significant campaigns for Congress.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said last week he is still considering a run for the governor's office. He must decide before the July 25 filing deadline.
Democratic leaders, including U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and former Gov. Ben Cayetano, have said they considered Kim to be the party's best hope of regaining control of the state's highest office. So far, only two relatively low-profile candidates -- former state lawmaker Randy Iwase and Waianae Harbormaster William Aila -- have entered the campaign to oust Lingle.
"The Democrats screwed up because they went down pretty much without a fight," said University of Hawaii political science professor Neal Milner. "This is still a Democratic state. It's a state where if you field a well-known Democratic candidate, it's going to be a close election."
In the congressional races, most of the attention has focused on U.S. Rep. Ed Case's upstart campaign to unseat longtime U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who has been drawing on traditional party loyalties to hold off Case's argument that it is time for a change in Hawaii's Washington leadership.
Whoever receives the Democratic nomination will face an underdog Republican candidate like former Vietnam prisoner of war Jerry Coffee -- who announced his candidacy this week with Lingle's backing -- or lawyer Mark Beatty.
The biggest question mark and some of the hardest-fought campaigns are in this year's election in the 2nd Congressional District for the House seat being left available by Case.
At least a dozen candidates have entered the race so far, including 10 Democrats, and more could throw their hats in before the filing deadline.
"I expect a lot of money will come in to support the Republican candidates," said state Democratic Party Chairman Mike McCartney. "The Republicans may see it as a seat that wasn't on the radar screen. It's not a bad investment."
The candidates on the Democratic side so far include former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono; state Sens. Colleen Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Gary Hooser and Ron Menor; former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga; state Rep. Brian Schatz; Honolulu Councilman Nestor Garcia; former biotech company executive Hanalei Aipoalani; and attorney Joe Zuiker.
The Republicans are state Sen. Bob Hogue and former state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa.
The safest major seat in Hawaii appears to belong to Abercrombie, who has not seen any significant opposition surface. Two Republicans and one Democrat have filed papers to oppose him, but their campaigns have not been very visible.