Isle delegation stays Democrat
Hirono, Akaka and Abercrombie prepare to take a united voice to Washington
Democrats won a clean sweep in Hawaii's congressional races yesterday, as former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono joined incumbents U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Neil Abercrombie in victory.
Hirono beat Republican state Sen. Bob Hogue for the House seat, while both Akaka and Abercrombie cruised past their GOP opponents.
Hirono said among her goals in Washington would be to set a new policy for Iraq and to improve health care, Social Security and education programs.
"I will be working very hard with our congressional delegation. There's just so much to do," she said at her campaign headquarters at the Japanese Cultural Center.
Hogue conceded after 10 p.m. when election results with 50 percent of the precincts and most absentee ballots showed him too far down to come back.
"I just want to thank the people behind me who showed the tremendous support that they have shown throughout the evening and throughout the campaign. Mazie Hirono is obviously the pick of the people. So I congratulate her on a good campaign and I hope she does a good job in Congress."
Hogue, 53, passed up a chance to run for re-election in the state Senate to run for Hawaii's 2nd Congressional House seat.
Hirono and Akaka had won tough races in the Democratic primary, but were heavily favored to win in yesterday's general election.
Hirono, 59, was running for the House seat held by Democrat Rep. Ed Case, who gave it up in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Akaka in the primary. She had to beat nine other Democratic hopefuls in the Sept. 23 primary, and she hit Hogue hard on his support for President Bush.
Akaka, 82, handily defeated state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who was appointed to run by the Hawaii Republican party to replace Jerry Coffee. Coffee, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war, won the GOP primary despite dropping out of the race because of health problems.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mazie Hirono and Neil Abercrombie shared a laugh shortly after the first printout of last night's general elections at the Hirono headquarters at the Manoa Grand Ballroom in the Japanese Cultural Center. CLICK FOR LARGE
"It was a tough race for me," said Akaka after he walked through his Dole Cannery campaign headquarters, followed by his wife, Millie, who was carrying one of their six grandchildren, Kainoa Matson.
Thielen faced an uphill battle from the start, competing against a better-funded Akaka, who refused repeated requests to debate her.
Akaka was running for his third full term in the Senate. He was first appointed by former Gov. John Waihee in 1990 to fill the seat of the late Sen. Spark Matsunaga and was elected in November of that year to fill out the last four years of Matsunaga's term.
Thielen, 73, did not have to give up her state House seat to run for Congress. She said she was encouraged that early returns showed her with 33 percent of the vote.
"Since statehood, no Republican has ever received above 27 percent when challenging a Democrat for the U.S. Senate who is running for re-election," she said at her Kailua headquarters.
Abercrombie, meanwhile, won his ninth consecutive full term in the House. The 68-year-old was never threatened by underfunded political newcomer Richard Hough, a 35-year-old defense analyst.
Both Akaka and Abercrombie said the Iraq war was pivotal in this year's elections.
"It was not only a referendum on Iraq, but also on President Bush and his imperial presidency ... and the Republicans suffered as a result of this," said Abercrombie.
Hirono, Abercrombie and Akaka will join fellow Democrat Sen. Daniel Inouye in representing Hawaii in Washington. The last time a Republican represented Hawaii in Congress was 1991, when Pat Saiki served in the House.
Star-Bulletin reporters Leila Fujimori and Alexandre Da Silva contributed to this report.