Case and Gabbard
turn to grass roots
in congressional race

Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District spans 331 miles of the island chain from Hanalei on Kauai to Naalehu on the Big Island, made up primarily of smaller communities built by waves of immigrants who came to work on sugar plantations more than a century ago.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat, has represented his party's political stronghold for 18 months and is seeking a second two-year term.

Thus far, his principal challenger is freshman Honolulu City Council member Mike Gabbard, a Republican who surfaced in the 1990s as a leader in the campaign to ban gay marriages in the islands.

Gabbard bristles at Case's suggestion Gabbard is "a one-issue candidate," meaning same-sex marriage.

"Well, since I have thus far been successful in ruining Ed Case's dream of legalizing same-sex marriage in Hawaii, it's only natural Case can only think of that one issue when he thinks of me," Gabbard emphasized with bold lettering in his e-mail response to a series of questions from The Associated Press.

Noting that he grew up in a military family, is an educator and a small businessman, Gabbard said he's better equipped than Case to address the issues of education, national defense and security and the economy.

"Of 535 members of Congress, only 35 are teachers. Most, like Ed Case, are lawyers. I will be a voice for Hawaii's students, parents, and teachers who want and deserve more effective federal action on education," Gabbard said.

He predicted the Republican Party would retain control over Congress and, as a member of the majority party, "I will have more power and influence in Congress than our present representative."

Case, on his Web site, says he believes he's done a good job in his first term, keeping his constituents informed and seeking their "collective wisdom" during the 55 "talk story" meetings he has held across the district since his election.

He said the 109th Congress that convenes in January faces two major challenges -- adjusting foreign policy to the reality of the threat from terrorism and revitalizing the nation's economy and federal fiscal solvency.

"For Hawaii, we must similarly focus on overall economic revitalization, and I will continue through my membership on the U.S. House Committee on Small Business and Committee on Agriculture and otherwise to target federal programs and funds to Hawaii's economic development needs," Case said, adding that education also will continue as a top priority.

Case, an attorney who served eight years in the state House representing Honolulu's Manoa Valley area, is the better known of the two politically.

After losing a close Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2002 to then-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, he beat out 37 other candidates in a special election two months later to serve out the remaining five weeks of the two-year term of Rep. Patsy Mink, who died Sept. 28, 2002.

Mink's posthumous re-election in the Nov. 7 general election set up a second special election Jan. 4, 2003, to fill her 2nd District seat, and Case beat out the 43 other candidates for the full term.

For both Case and Gabbard, the initial phase of the campaign has focused on community meetings, door-to-door and grass-roots politicking, with neighbor island air travel eating into limited campaign war chests.

Last month's campaign contribution and spending reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show Case with $141,507 in contributions for the election so far, but only $14,211 this year, with expenditures of $119,870 and $37,653 cash on hand. He spent more than $4,400 each for Christmas messages last year on Honolulu's four network affiliate television stations.

Case said he hasn't done any serious fund raising thus far, but had a fund-raiser yesterday in Kona and has one scheduled for Thursday on Kauai.

Gabbard said he raised $107,349 (including $20,416 he lent to the campaign). He reported spending only $2,573 with $104,776 cash on hand as of March 31.

Gabbard said he believes he'll need about $700,000.

In Mink's campaigns, she spent about $250,000, although she seldom faced a serious challenge for the largely rural district.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, meanwhile, reports $546,136 on hand for his 1st District campaign to represent urban Honolulu, much of it left over from the 2002 election in which he reported spending just under $600,000. As yet, he faces no opponent.

The Hawaii Republican Party is staying neutral in the primary election, but GOP Chairman Brennon Morioka said Gabbard's financial support is significant, demonstrating "there is a lot of interest in removing more incumbent Democrats."

While there's been no indication of support yet from Gov. Linda Lingle, Hawaii's first GOP chief executive in 40 years, Lingle's senior policy adviser, Linda Smith, has contributed $4,000 to Gabbard's campaign.

Gabbard was born in American Samoa in 1948, one of eight children of a career Air Force enlisted man. After obtaining a 1971 degree in English from Sonoma State College in California, he returned to American Samoa where he taught and served as a school administrator until 1983, when he became headmaster and a teacher at the private Ponomauloa School in Wahiawa.

He and his wife, Carol, a member of the state's Board of Education, run MS Services, a business dedicated to family and lifestyle counseling and the sale of health and nutrition products, according to his city financial disclosure form.

The Gabbards also report joint ownership of Hawaiian Toffee Treasures LLC, while Gabbard lists Infotech Communications LLC, a media and communications company.

Case was born in 1952 in Hilo, earned his undergraduate degree at Williams College in Massachusetts and a law degree at the University of California's Hastings College of Law. He also served as a legislative assistant to the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga.


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