An Invigorated Democratic Party

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 01, 2006
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The Case vs. Akaka political race could make things a little more entertaining at the square building on South Beretania Street.

It’s interesting to see how many people are confused about U.S. Rep. Ed Case’s announcement that he is going to challenge longtime Sen. Daniel Akaka, because in the world of politics this news didn’t surprise many people.

In fact, it invigorated the Democratic Party.

There’s an old saying in local politics: “If you don’t like what’s going on, wait six months.” In this case, the saying is true. The real effect of Rep. Case’s challenge is politically sound, because if either of our senior senators have a medical emergency, their likely replacement will be Rep. Neil Abercrombie since he is the senior of the two representatives from Hawaii. It has been the longstanding policy in Hawaii politics and a topic of much conversation around the State Capitol.

What this does is make for an interesting chess game between factions and power brokers. What it doesn’t do is make for a better legislative session for the taxpayers.

The reason is simple. One day after Case’s announcement, one third of the senators in the Legislature announced that they would be candidates for the vacant seat. Imagine that - one-third of the entire Senate vying for a congressional seat.

This is possible because of our laws that allow half of the state Senate to serve longer terms, so the Senate, unlike the House, does not have a complete turnover in an election year. Furthermore, the senators with longer terms can run for another office without giving up their Senate seats. Any senator with higher elected office has no real reason not to expand their name recognition. All it takes is a little more energy and additional fund-raising.

It should be entertaining to see how this new breed of campaigning will be conducted, with the new rules passed by last year’s Legislature that limit the sources of revenue that can be collected by people doing business with the state government.

In another week or two, the politicians will have to file their campaign fund-raising for public scrutiny. At that time the Democrats will find out for the first time how much money the governor has amassed for her reelection campaign. Chances are it will be a daunting figure, which will give the legislators more to worry about.

There may be another source of entertainment as the session continues - the rationalizations being made over the repeal of the gas cap. Everyone seems to have a better idea of how a gas cap should be formulated and implemented. The House now has a coalition dedicated to reforming the gas cap for a simple reason: The price of gas is higher now than it was before the cap was implemented. Sounds like an interesting argument to me.

Of course, everyone is licking their chops over the hefty surplus to return or spend. As I said earlier, I don’t think giving back money to the taxpayers should be a difficult task. What can make it difficult is trying to take credit for who gets how much and why.

Intermingled with all of that is still the No. 1 issue: the upcoming election. It’s only logical to assume that if transition of power is a hot topic in the congressional delegation, then it would also a hot topic in both houses of the Legislature. And it is.

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