Narrow choices in voting for U.S. House candidate
Ten candidates with legislative experience are vying to fill the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Ed Case.
REP. Ed Case's decision to challenge Sen. Dan Akaka led to a flood of candidacies to fill his U.S. House seat representing the neighbor islands and rural Oahu. The winner of the Democratic primary is likely to receive a small plurality -- not a majority -- of votes, so voters should focus on the most realistic contenders.
The eight Democrats who have legislative experience and are fully capable of the job differ little on the important issues. None of them has followed Case's centrist posture. Instead, they point to the liberal legacy of the late Rep. Patsy Mink, who served 12 terms representing the 2nd Congressional District. All eight favor a hasty exit of U.S. troops from Iraq, while Case warns of the disastrous consequences of setting a date for withdrawal.
Three of the Democratic candidates -- all of them lawyers in their 50s -- stand out from the others in terms of past accomplishments, ability and passion. They are former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and state Sen. Ron Menor.
» Hirono served 22 years in the Legislature, where she was known as a consumer advocate. In her eight years as lieutenant governor in the administration of Gov. Ben Cayetano, she is remembered as being in charge of the Pre-Plus Program, created to provide preschool education to children from low-income families.
» Hanabusa, an attorney for organized labor, has been in the Legislature since 1999. She has displayed integrity in winning enactment of legislation putting public workers into one state-managed health fund system and other government reforms, despite union opposition. Hanabusa, one of Hawaii's smartest legislators, also chaired an ad hoc Senate-House committee that investigated the state's compliance with a federal consent decree mandating improved educational services for disabled students.
» Menor has served 22 years in the Legislature and is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Housing Committee. He co-chaired a legislative task force to provide more affordable housing. Menor took a lead role in creating gasoline price caps and kept fighting for the caps after price increases following Hurricane Katrina made them unpopular and they were set aside.
The winner will face either Quentin Kawananakoa, who served four years in the state House, or state Sen. Bob Hogue in the general election. Both of the Republican candidates describe themselves as fiscal conservatives and support the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.
They differ on the issue of Hawaiian recognition. Kawananakoa supports the Akaka Bill, defeated in the Senate this year, while Hogue has called it flawed and in need of change. Hogue also says the bill should be put to a vote by all Hawaii residents, a tactic advocated by opponents of Hawaiian recognition.
The biggest difference between Kawananakoa and Hogue is in their ability to run a robust campaign during the weeks ahead. Kawananakoa, a descendent of Hawaiian royalty and overseer of the Campbell Estate, has the wealth and willingness to spend his own money on such an effort. Hogue lacks those riches and is unlikely to attract large donations in a state that is regarded as heavily Democratic.
Voters should consider all of these aspects in both the Democratic and Republican races.
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