DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, above, his wife, Millie, and their family met supporters last night at Akaka's headquarters at Dole Cannery after the second printout results were released.
Akaka wins as Case folds
Case concedes near midnight and pledges his support
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka beat back a surprising primary challenge by fellow Democrat U.S. Rep Ed Case last night, winning the chance to run for a fourth term in the Senate against a Republican opponent to be selected by Gov. Linda Lingle.
After the second state Office of Elections printout, which contained nearly 185,000 votes, Akaka was leading Case by 15,390 statewide.
At about 11:50 p.m., Case told a quiet crowd of about 100 supporters that he called Akaka and conceded.
"Realistically, there is no chance that this gap will narrow sufficiently for us to win, so now's the time for us to concede the race," he said.
"I have to tell you that this loss is my responsibility. The decisions were mine to run and the responsibility and the result is mine," he said.
He vowed to support Akaka and the rest of Hawaii's congressional delegation as he finishes his term in the House.
"He won. I lost. That's democracy and we need to get on with it," Case said.
Akaka said that Case's challenge united the party.
"This has brought our party together, not just our party, this brought Hawaii together," Akaka said.
Earlier in the night, Case had held out hope that he could make up the early-result deficit. "It depends on who voted on election day. I said I would not be surprised to be behind in the absentee vote," Case said.
The first two reports had Akaka winning across every island. The 82-year-old senator's biggest lead was on Maui, where he picked up an almost 2-to-1 lead.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Rep. Ed Case, at left, and his wife, Audrey, walked off stage after conceding by phone to Akaka at Case headquarters.
Case's strongest showing in the early return was on Oahu, where he had 53,416 to Akaka's 48,205.
On the Republican side, Jerry Coffee, who had a heart attack and heart surgery over the summer, was well ahead of Mark Beatty and several Republican candidates.
Although Coffee officially withdrew from the race, his name remained on the ballot and Gov. Linda Lingle urged Republicans to vote for him because the GOP would then be able to name a replacement to face the Democratic winner in the general election.
Before the first preliminary results were released, Case called Akaka "a good and decent and honorable man that I have loved and respected for 30 years."
Both Case and Akaka supporters continued to crowd their campaign headquarters until the 11 p.m. report came in.
The Akaka crowd at the Dole Cannery ballroom had more than 200 people cheering and waving small American flags as the first returns, displayed on two large TV screens, showed their candidate leading comfortably in the race. The crowd broke out into a chant of "Six more years."
"We're elated," said volunteer Hoala Greevy, who canvassed in Waianae yesterday for a last-minute push. "It's literally been a blood, sweat and tears effort."
"We worked really hard," said Akaka campaign Chairman Andy Winer.
For the last 24 hours, more than 260 volunteers continued to campaign for Akaka, Winer said.
"I'm feeling good," he added. "We've done everything we set out to do during the course of the campaign."
Case and his wife, Audrey, entered his campaign headquarters at South and Cooke streets early last night to the tune of "Rocky" and chants of "Ed, Ed, Ed."
But the upbeat mood of the crowd of about 200 grew more subdued after the first results showed their candidate trailing.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie celebrated last night just before Akaka was interviewed by TV media at Akaka's headquarters at Dole Cannery.
"I thought we would be behind in the first printout with the absentee ballots," said Case in an interview. "You'd rather be ahead than behind, obviously, but what it really comes down to at this point is what happens on election day."
Bryce Monson, a 19-year-old Kapiolani Community College business student, praised Case.
"I like what he had to say and his views for his future in Hawaii," he said.
Case stunned Hawaii's political establishment in January by announcing he would oppose Akaka in the Democratic primary.
The challenge was taken by Democrats such as Inouye and Rep. Neil Abercrombie as a declaration of war on their own political lives.
Within hours of Case joining the race, Abercrombie was on the attack.
The divisions put the state's ruling Democratic Party in a difficult position, including political workers who helped Case in his 2002 races for governor and Congress and yet also had supported Akaka in his 30-year political career.
Those Democrats were now forced to pick either Case or Akaka. Some, like Big Island Democratic organizer George Yokoyama, gave up their support for Case and sided with Akaka. Others, like Big Island Case organizer Mike Middlesworth, remained both a Democrat and a Case supporter.
Star-Bulletin reporters Rosemarie Bernardo and Debra Barayuga contributed to this report.