Democratic wave rises once again
THE RUMORS that the longest-living American political machine has fallen are at best overstated and probably just not true.
Hawaii's Democrats pulled off an impressive primary election. Not only did they show strength and depth, the Democratic Party gave a hard slap to those needing party discipline.
After jeering and shouting at him during his appearances at the party's spring state convention, the Democratic Party regulars went on to soundly thrash Rep. Ed Case for challenging Sen. Dan Akaka.
That was the second time that Akaka has served as a rallying point for the party stalwarts. In 1990, Akaka appeared to be staggered by a challenge from Republican Rep. Pat Saiki. And then in early August 1990, Sen. Dan Inouye bellowed once and you could almost see the great shaggy Democratic herd shuffle together, face east toward Washington, D.C., and trample Saiki.
Now, 16 years later, Akaka was threatened and Inouye was the first to the defense. Brickwood Galuteria might have handed over the state Democratic Party chairmanship to the genial Mike McCartney, but never think for a minute that anyone but Inouye is in charge.
Not long ago the Democrats looked old and tired. The state's economy had plummeted, jobs were down and the island's plantation lands lay barren. Linda Lingle had just become the first Republican in 40 years to claim the governorship and 19 GOP members of the state House promised to add more.
But Inouye never flagged. He was a party standard-bearer in 1954, when Democrats won by running on the grievances of GOP control of the territory. And it was Inouye who revitalized the Democrats so that in 2006, they remain the only party in town.
If the rejection of Case is not enough proof of the continuing Democratic clout, look at the candidacy and campaign of Randy Iwase, who ran only after no one else with any political experience would face Lingle in this general election.
Iwase's history is tied to the Democratic Party. Nearly all his life Iwase has worked in appointive jobs with various Democratic state administrations. There were few high points. But this year Iwase answered the call to serve. His reward was a total of 119,000 votes in the primary and the chance to face Lingle in the general election.
For the Democrats, however, the once-again rising wave of dominance will be across the islands from legislative seats to Congress.
In this Democratic tidal wave it appears that Lingle herself remains the only piece of GOP high ground.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at email@example.com