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Jan 20, 2006 6:41 am


Hawaii Surprise



Just after a poll from New Jersey that showed interim senator Bob Menendez trailing Republican Tom Kean, Jr. by 11 points (though with more than 30 percent of the electorate undecided), a surprising piece of bad news for Democrats from Hawaii: incumbent Daniel Akaka is going to face a primary challenge from Democratic congressman Ed Case. (Akaka is 81 years old; Case is 53; and Case has said he'll stress the age issue in the primary.)

It's still unlikely the Republicans will be able to contest this seat, but a race that was safe Democratic now has a bit of unpredictability.

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Jonathan Dresner - 1/22/2006

Actually, if I were the Hawaii Republican chair, I'd push donors to support Case's bid: Case votes across the aisle more than anyone else in the Hawai'i delegation. (I like your description of him; dovetails well with my observations)

The question really isn't "if" racial/ethnic politics will be played, it's how.


Robert KC Johnson - 1/21/2006

I can imagine that Abercrombie is furious. On the other hand, for the Dems, I think Case would probably be a stronger statewide candidate. He strikes me as something of a self-promoter without a lot of fixed political principles, but he'd be less difficult to attack than Abercrombie.

I'll be curious to see if racial/ethnic politics wind up playing any role here if Case is able to oust Akaka. I suppose the GOP would have to come up with a somewhat credible candidate first.


Grant W Jones - 1/21/2006

You are right, of course, a well defined hierarchy is a part of any political machine. So Case is breaking ranks. Although, he is right, the "Old Boys" are getting very long in the tooth and the troops are getting restless. New blood, from any party, would be good for Hawaii.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/20/2006

Abercrombie is a reliable (deeply liberal, but he knows enough about the Hawai'i economy not to tick off our bread-butterers) House member; I don't know that he'd be a great Senator (though I would probably, if the election were today, prefer him over Case).

Most political parties, past a certain immature disorganized phase, have pecking orders and priorities which determine where resources -- including political offices, or at least candidacies -- go.

The 1.5 party system (and which is the 1 and which is the .5 depends on where you are) is the problem: with more real parties, there'd be real options and competition.


Grant W Jones - 1/20/2006

Neal Abercrombie's response was even more interesting. Neal feels that Akaka's seat is his by way of seniority and Case is cutting him out. Neal is really pissed, :-).

That's how its done in Hawaii. Who will fill what office is decided long before any election. Case is stepping on a lot of toes. If he loses the Senate race his career is over in Hawaii.


Robert KC Johnson - 1/20/2006

Quite so--and I can see Case's reasoning here. It will be interesting to see Akaka's response: I suppose it's possible that he'll decide a difficult primary isn't worth the fight.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/20/2006

the Hawai'i Dems can't find anyone to challenge the Republican Governor Linda Lingle (and if Case leaves his seat open, that's one more job to fill with people who don't seem ready to volunteer for anything).

Of course, I'm not a big fan of Case at the moment, but it would be good if we didn't have the Republican Governor pick an interim successor to Akaka in case his health didn't hold out.

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