These Dems have staying power
A week in politics can be a long time, so after a span of nearly two years, how much has local politics changed?
For Brian Schatz and Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, time has served both well.
Two years ago, the pair were part of the Democratic herd of 10 candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District seat vacated when then-Rep. Ed Case challenged and lost to Sen. Dan Akaka.
Hanabusa, running in her second unsuccessful campaign for Congress, was an "almost was." She fell to former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono by just 844 votes in the Sept. 23, 2006, primary.
Schatz was nowhere near that close. He lost to Hirono by more than 16,000 votes.
In the race, Hanabusa risked no political capital. She was in between campaigns and because she was running for a federal seat she was not forced to step down from her state Senate seat. Schatz was was a state representative and was up for re-election, but opted to try Congress instead of what likely would have been an easy return to the House. His loss seemed to send him into the political abyss.
Neither won the congressional seat, but last weekend both were back running the show. Schatz was easily elected Hawaii Democratic Party chairman and Hanabusa had finished two years as Senate president.
Part of the reason they are still successful political players is because after losing the congressional primary, Schatz and Hanabusa were in the greeting line for the candidate unity breakfast the morning after their defeat.
While Ed Case found somewhere else to be that morning, Schatz and Hanabusa were letting Democrats know they hadn't quit.
Both are good fodder for political speculation. Schatz has looked at a run for lieutenant governor in two years. Although there was some discontent among Democrats who didn't like the party chairman using the position as a stepping stone, Gov. Linda Lingle showed how running a smart campaign for everyone else in 2000 helped her run her own savvy race in 2002.
Hanabusa has had a more politically perilous time. Her first year at the head of the Senate was tumultuous at best as headstrong committee chairmen ran roughshod over Lingle's cabinet and judicial appointees. During the interim, however, Hanabusa established more order, bouncing Sen. Clayton Hee from his Judiciary Committee chairmanship and wrestling into submission the Hawaii Superferry controversy.
"Being Senate president gives you a different skill set," Hanabusa says tactfully. She did not have to add that there are days when it is possible to have all senators, the governor and the public infuriated with you.
Although they were Democratic opposites this year, Hanabusa, the Clinton spokeswoman, and Schatz, the Obama representative, there is speculation that Hanabusa might try for governor in 2010. It would be a political irony to see Hanabusa and Schatz teamed up in two years.