Bigger roles for isle delegation
The shift in the U.S. House will mean more power and responsibility for Hawaii's delegation.
Key Hawaii Democrats viewed the shift in this year's presidential midterm elections as a referendum on the policies of President Bush.
"What this means," said former Hawaii Gov. John Waihee, "is that more people want to see his policies at least challenged and not just accepted."
Waihee said this type of voter rebellion is seldom seen when the country is at war.
"It took us 10 years in the streets before there was a change during the Vietnam War," Waihee said. "There are not many times when you have a war-time situation and you have a rebellion like this ... it's a voter's rebellion."
Mazie Hirono, who won her first term in the U.S. House, said: "This is a very hopeful night for the country. It's a very strong message that the people of our country would like a new direction."
Hawaii's top Democrats -- from the state's senior Sen. Daniel Inouye to Ho-nolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann -- were at the campaign headquarters of Sen. Daniel Akaka, who won re-election last night.
The Democrats took back control of the U.S. House and were two seats away from resuming control of the U.S. Senate.
If the Democrats take the Senate, Inouye could become chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee and chairman of Senate Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations. "It's a solemn responsibility," he said.
"We have been campaigning a lot, saying Congress is not doing a good job. Now is the time to show we can do a better job."
He said Akaka could step up and become chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
"It's been 16 years," said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who easily won re-election. "I was a rookie congressman the last time the Democrats were in control."
Abercrombie is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the ranking Democrat on the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. The shift in the power of the U.S. House means that Abercrombie will play a larger role in how military aid is spent.
Abercrombie said the committee would be restructured to focus on different branches of the military with the possibility that he could be chairman of a subcommittee such as one dealing with the Army or the Marine Corps.
"I am very thrilled and excited over the possibility of taking over a chairmanship," said Abercrombie, who has already been in talks with Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, who will head House Armed Services Committee.
Abercrombie said last night's victory rightly should be labeled as more of a loss for Bush rather than the Republican Party.
"President Bush had a tin ear," Abercrombie said. "He wasn't hearing what the Republicans were saying."
Akaka, 82, also will move up in seniority. Before this year's elections, Akaka was 19th among 44 Democrats.
Sen. Dan Inouye, 82, now is third in seniority in the U.S. Senate, behind West Virginia's Robert Byrd and Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy. Inouye is a member of the committees on appropriations; commerce, science and technology; and Indian affairs. On the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Inouye serves as the ranking Democrat and his clout has ensured a flow of military contracts and jobs for the islands.
Star-Bulletin reporter Alexandre Da Silva contributed to this story.