RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ed Case and his campaign chairwoman, Crystal Rose, talked in an alley outside his campaign headquarters Saturday night just before he conceded defeat to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.
What’s next for Ed Case?
Case skips Democrats' 'rah-rah' event as he considers further public service
The morning after the election, U.S. Rep. Ed Case was where he has been for much of his political career: standing far from the Democratic Party that he doggedly, and unsuccessfully, tried to lead in a new direction.
That effort, he said yesterday in an interview with the Star-Bulletin, "is going backward" with the victory of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka on Saturday.
Case did not show up at the traditional post-primary Democratic unity breakfast at the Pagoda Hotel. Instead, he was the only elected official to attend the first joint memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl for four Japanese-American units that fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II.
"I'm not sending any messages," Case said about missing the unity breakfast. "People are going to read into what I do however they want to, and -- you know what? -- the campaign's over."
Case said he attended the service rather than the breakfast because he said he had committed to attend the memorial for the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion and Military Intelligence Service.
"They (the Democratic Party) need to have their time. This was a situation where the party structure itself heavily supported Daniel Akaka. They need to have kind of a 'rah-rah' morning," Case said.
He refuted speculation that he might switch parties and run for office again as a Republican. "That's not an option at all," Case said.
He is comfortable with being a Democrat, he said, but "that doesn't mean I'm going to blindly follow the Democratic Party of Hawaii."
Saturday night at his headquarters, Case promised to support Akaka and the Hawaii delegation. But that support does not mean he will formally endorse either Akaka or former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who won the party's nomination to replace him in his 2nd District congressional seat.
"I'm just not going to get into the endorsements at all," Case said. "From my perspective the campaign is over. My voters have always been independent.
"It's not that I'm going to do or not do anything. It's just that from my perspective it's time to just step away and take a break from it."
Case was criticized by many in the party for not campaigning for Hirono after he lost to her in the Democratic primary race for governor in 2002.
"I don't think that the rules apply," Case said yesterday. "I'm not really particularly focused on doing things just because that's the way they've always been done. ... From my perspective, what difference does it make whether I endorse or don't endorse? It's just about moving on."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Case talked to veterans and their family members at Punchbowl yesterday morning. They gathered for the first joint memorial service for the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.
Case said he has no firm plans for the next two years other than to finish his next three months in office and prepare for a transition to his successor in the 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses the neighbor islands and rural Oahu.
"I want to get this ready for the next person because there's too much that needs to be done in the 2nd Congressional District and in Hawaii and Washington," Case said.
He said he will continue in some kind of public service, preferably another elected office.
"I think I have something to contribute there," Case said. "But it takes two to tango, and if it's not going to be in elected office, then I'm going to find somewhere else to do it."
Public service does not necessarily mean government, Case said. It could be a job with a nonprofit group, perhaps one that develops young leaders.
Case also said he hopes to spend time reconnecting with his family and discussing his future with his wife, Audrey.
"For me it's an opportunity to look at the next chapter and go in a different direction if that's what I want to do. I'm sure it will be some form of public service, but the practical reality is that there's only so many elective offices that I would even consider at this point, and that's a problem."
For her part, Audrey Case said her husband ran a clean, honest campaign.
"I think the results were close, considering who we were campaigning against got blurred," she said shortly after her husband conceded. "I don't think it was actually Akaka. It was just about everybody in the Democratic Party, which is just unfortunate."
Case leaves for Washington today with no regrets about challenging Akaka and the Democratic Party establishment in Hawaii.
"It was right to give the voters that choice. There's nothing whatsoever I would take back about my decision," he said.
Case said his belief is that the party needs to move more to the center. Many of the labor unions who have influence in the party have campaigned against him.
"Is there a god somewhere that says who is and isn't a Democrat? That's the entire problem with the party. You're supposed to pass a 100 percent litmus test," Case said. "I believe the Democratic Party of Hawaii needs to be inclusive, needs to be broader."
Many of the veterans at yesterday's ceremonies helped Democrats take power in Hawaii in 1954. Some veterans at the service said while they appreciated that Case showed up for the memorial, they voted for Akaka. Loyalty was a factor for some.
During the interview, an elderly Manoa veteran came up to Case to shake his hand and recalled how he supported Case when he first ran for the state House.
"I introduced him to all my neighbors as the haole bugga," the veteran said.
"You still there?" Case replied, breaking into a slight pidgin accent. "You still in the same house? I might just walk up there and see you. You say hi to the neighborhood up there."
"You come around any time you run for office," the man replied.
Star-Bulletin reporter Debra Barayuga contributed to this report.