Richard Borreca

On Politics


Who will
Dan Inouye vote for?

Back in Washington, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye may be applauded as the senators' senator or derided as a master of pork barrel politics; but at home in Hawaii, Inouye's reputation as a king-maker is never in doubt.

Election 2002

When Inouye comes home during an election year, Democrats dutifully line up for pictures with Hawaii's senior senator. And why not? Inouye was there at the birth of the modern Democratic Party in Hawaii in 1954, has served in Congress since 1959 and is Hawaii's most well-known politician.

Colleagues describe him as a canny politician, with a chess master's ability to plan and keep thinking several moves ahead.

So there is a question today of just what is Inouye is thinking about the race for governor.

At this time last year, local political leaders were saying that Inouye was trying to clear the field for Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris to ascend to the governorship. Although he wouldn't say in public, in private Inouye reportedly was backing Harris.

For the record, Inouye would offer only the suggestion that it would be easier to beat a strong Republican like Linda Lingle with a Democratic Party united behind one candidate. At that time Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono also was in the race, splitting the Democratic vote.

When Hirono bowed out of the race for governor, Inouye was quick to offer congratulations and good luck. Then Harris abandoned the governor's race and Hirono jumped back in. Suddenly a strong Inouye ally, banker Walter Dods, toyed with the idea of running for governor. Again, although there were denials all around, few doubted that Dods would make the run without some consideration of support from Inouye.

Hirono, meanwhile, couldn't shake the perception that Inouye's troops passed over her twice already because they don't think she can beat Lingle in the general election.

Inouye told the three principal Democrats running for governor, Hirono, Rep. Ed Case and D.G. "Andy" Anderson, to campaign without cutting each other up so that troops from all campaigns could join forces in the general election. Some Inouye supporters say Case is the best one to go against Lingle because his positions are closest to Lingle's but he is still a Democrat.

Two weeks ago, Inouye attended a fund-raiser for Case. He addressed the crowd saying that he had to be neutral in the primary.

"I've said all I can say, according to the rules," Inouye told Case supporters.

"But I am here," he added archly.

So what is Hirono to think?

"I have heard the rumors, and I also know there are people who have watched me in this town for 22 years, and they know I am very independent and just because someone has a lot of power doesn't mean I am going to do what they want," Hirono said recently in a meeting with Star-Bulletin editors.

So the obvious tension between Inouye and the Hirono camp adds a little excitement to what is still a tame Democratic primary.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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