Lingering resentment could play into Hawaii congressional race

Former Rep. Ed Case’s (D-Hawaii) primary opponent doesn’t believe Democrats have forgiven him for challenging Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).
 
“I think that Ed should bow out,” said state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D). “And the main reason why is that contrary to what he told you, I don’t believe that Democrats have forgiven him for the race against Senator Akaka.”
 

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Case and Hanabusa are running for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). But it’s a Senate race from three years ago that still has Dems talking. In 2006, Case challenged sitting-Sen. Akaka and lost in the primary.
 
In an interview with The Hill last week, Case said that his internal polling showed he had a clean slate with Democrats. “I’m pretty much starting afresh in terms of that,” Case said.
 
Not so, countered Hanabusa. “They have not forgotten that Ed ran against Senator Akaka.”
 
Moreover, his Senate run, which came after winning only one full term in the House, showed that he’s not a team player, Hanabusa said. “Ed has never been viewed as team player by the congressional delegation or by others in the state. He’s not a consensus builder.”
 
Hanabusa pointed to recent remarks from Abercrombie that she said hinted he wasn’t looking for Case to succeed him.
 
“My thought, and I've said it to other people, is if you don't want to be a team player in the Hawaii congressional delegation, don't run, because there are only four of us,” Abercrombie told the Honolulu Advertiser this week.
 
Hanabusa labeled Case a “maverick,” and implied he would operate independently of the rest of the state’s members.
 
“I don’t believe when we only have four in our congressional delegation that you can have somebody who runs maverick on ya," she said. "It’s not that time."
 
The battle between Hanabusa and Case heated up last month when Abercrombie announced he would resign early to concentrate on his gubernatorial bid. That means there will be a special election sometime next year. And some the “winner-take-all” election format will favor Republican candidate Charles Djou, who is unopposed.
 
Hanabusa is confident she’ll beat Case and Djou.
 
She pointed out Case is considered a Blue Dog Democrat while Djou is pitching himself as a pro-business, fiscal conservative. “I think they will pull more from the same vote base than I will,” Hanabusa said. “Ed and Djou in the race are going to cancel each other out.”
 
Case made the argument to The Hill last week that he has the best chance to beat Djou.
 
“I do have the substantially better chance of prevailing against Djou,” he said. “From the perspective of prevailing as a Democrat over the Republican, I think I’m the better candidate.”
 
While Case and others have predicted an early spring vote, Hanabusa said the special election could be scheduled as late as September, when the state’s primaries are normally held.
 
“I think the closer [Abercrombie] gets to what looks like a primary date, people may really clamor that it not be run separately because if it runs separately it’s such a major cost,” she said.
 
Abercrombie’s office said he plans to remain in office until the end of January but hasn’t given a specific resignation date.
 
Regardless of when it’s held, Hanabusa said she doesn’t plan to resign the state Senate presidency in order to compete in a special election as some have hinted she should, including her primary opponent.
 
“Does she want to remain Senate president, in which case she really can’t run for Congress in a special election, or does she want to run for Congress in a special election where she might not prevail and lose her Senate presidency? That’s the choice that she has,” Case said.
 
But Hanabusa argues there’s no need to resign because the state Senate, which consists of 23 Democrats and two Republicans, can effectively be put on autopilot.
 
“I have run a very strong leadership team and I have been very inclusive. I do not rule with an iron fist,’ she said. “The Senate is right on course. Structurally, in terms of running it, it is right on course.”
 
She added, “I do not believe that’s going to be an issue. If it becomes a problem, I would never jeopardize the Senate. But I am in this race and I am going to run a very tough campaign.”
 
Some observers have predicted that a “very tough” race between Case and Hanabusa could get heated, as the two faced off before in a 2002 House special election.
 
“I would never have characterized it as, quote-unquote a ‘grudge match’ or anything like that,” Hanabusa said. “I don’t think Ed and I have crossed swords on any major issue.”
 
Hanabusa said she is confident she’ll have enough money to compete effectively.
 
“I think we will probably out raise Ed,” she said. “Realistically we should exceed two-hundred-something thousand [by the end of the quarter].”
 
The campaign has a goal of $300,000, which would match Djou’s expected fundraising haul. “We have commitments to that amount already. It’s just a matter of when we would report it,” Hanabusa said. “I don’t think that Charles would have an advantage over me in terms of ability to raise money.”