U.S. Senate / U.S. House: 1st District (urban Oahu) / U.S. House 2nd District (rural Oahu -- Neighbor Islands)
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
During a July 26 "political speed-dating" session at McCoy Pavilion for U.S. House candidates, Hanalei Aipoalani answered questions among his cluster. After nine minutes, the candidates moved on to another group of people for their questions.
Parties jockeying for primary advantage
Both Democrats and Republicans seek to distinguish differences
The race to replace Ed Case in the U.S. House of Representatives has a little something for everyone.
Democrats and Republicans? Check.
A nonpartisan candidate? Yep.
Longtime incumbents and former legislative leaders? Got it.
Seasoned veterans and political newcomers? Sure thing.
"It's a free-for-all," said Rick Castberg, professor of political science at University of Hawaii-Hilo.
Although 2006 is a gubernatorial election year in Hawaii, and many eyes will no doubt focus on Case's bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, the most wide-open race is the one to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie also faces re-election this year and is being challenged in the primary by attorney Alexandra Kaan to represent the 1st Congressional District. The GOP primary for that seat includes Richard "Noah" Hough and Mark Terry.
In all, the 2nd Congressional campaign includes 13 candidates encompassing the entire spectrum of political ideas with backgrounds as diverse as the state they want to represent in Washington.
With so many in the campaign -- 10 Democrats, two Republicans and one nonpartisan -- it will be up to the candidates to distance themselves from the pack.
"Unless you get your message across, nobody's going to vote for you," said Castberg.
As in most contests, the rhetoric, ads, sign-waving and other campaigning are only likely to increase as the Sept. 23 primary approaches.
Some of that has already begun.
At a recent candidate forum, state Rep. Brian Schatz criticized perceived Democratic front-runner Mazie Hirono, the former lieutenant governor, questioning her record and what she has accomplished in the past 12 years. Hirono's campaign fired back with a list of achievements, arguing that her record stands on its own.
Hirono has raised the most money so far this year and also has picked up several endorsements.
The rest of the Democratic field includes state Sens. Colleen Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Gary Hooser and Ron Menor; Honolulu City Councilman Nestor Garcia; and former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga.
Also running as Democrats are former biotech company executive Hanalei Aipoalani, a godson of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, and attorney Joe Zuiker, a marathoner who is running, literally, around the state as part of his campaign.
"I think it's going to be natural that you're going to hear candidates taking stronger positions," said state Democratic Party Chairman Mike McCartney. "I would use the word 'contrasting' themselves with the others.
"I think the challenge is going to be how do you do it and not lose your base in the process. It can go both ways."
On the Republican side, former House Minority Leader Quentin Kawananakoa called on state Sen. Bob Hogue to suspend his weekly newspaper column on sports and recreation, saying it gives him an unfair advantage. Hogue refused, noting that the column has nothing to do with politics.
But Castberg noted that both Republicans have a fair amount of name recognition, and the high number of Democrats could divide party loyalties.
Republican Party leaders are banking on it, appealing to voters to send a member of Congress's majority party to Washington.
"We feel that we have the two best candidates running on either side," state GOP Chairman Sam Aiona said.
Also in the race is nonpartisan candidate Robert K. Wilcox IV of Maui.