Heart surgery suspends Coffee's U.S. Senate bid
Republican Jerry Coffee has suspended his candidacy for the U.S. Senate after undergoing emergency heart bypass surgery yesterday in San Angelo, Texas.
The 72-year-old Coffee, a retired Navy captain and a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, was the front-runner against five competitors in the GOP race, said Republican Party Chairman Sam Aiona. The winner faces the winner of the Democratic primary between U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
Coffee's son, Jerry Coffee Jr., made the announcement yesterday, saying, "At this time my father is strong and, as many of you who know him may have guessed, in very good spirits."
Coffee was expected to be released from the hospital in five days and should be home soon after, his son said yesterday.
Yesterday morning's surgery was the third of such surgeries to correct heart problems, his son said, and Coffee is expected to make a complete recovery.
Coffee and his wife had been in Texas to attend his mother-in-law's funeral, following their trip to Africa, performing humanitarian work in Swaziland and Malawi.
Jerry Coffee Jr. stopped short of saying his father would not re-enter the race, but said it was unlikely.
"As his family, we were stunned yet proud of his decision to tackle this election," Jerry Coffee Jr. said, "and we were equally disappointed and, selfishly perhaps, a bit relieved at his decision to sit this one out."
This was Coffee's second attempt to run for political office. In 2004 he lost in the race for the state House by 54 votes against incumbent Democratic Rep. Blake Oshiro in the 33rd District (Aiea-Halawa).
Aiona said it was not a time to discuss "politics or who's going to be our front-runner," but to show concern for Coffee's welfare.
"We hope he makes a full recovery and he can help our Republican team in the upcoming election," Aiona said.
GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another former prisoner of war held in North Vietnam and a good friend of Coffee's, had committed his support to him, Aiona said.
"Both of them are strong individuals," he said. "You have to be when you serve seven years in a prison in Vietnam. I think those experiences ... have given Capt. Coffee the strength he needs now."