Dems’ Tough Pick: Akaka Or Case?

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - May 31, 2006
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If you are going to vote Democrat in this year’s Hawaii U.S. Senate race, do you stick with the quiet tried and true or take a chance with the noisier upstart?

Do you give Daniel Kahikina Akaka a term that will keep him in Washington until he’s 87 and chance that he’ll live that long?

Or do you buy Edward Espenett Case’s argument that we need to bring new blood on line? We do have two 81-year-old senators on Capitol Hill.

I suspect most of you will vote by your gut. Akaka’s a sentimental choice of the most liberal voters but was rated by Time magazine (horrific timing for him) as one of the least effectual senators. Case is rated by as a moderate, liberal, populist. He only seems to really antagonize the anti-Iraq-war voters, but at 54 has many good years ahead of him.

Were it not for his YES on the war, YES on the supplemental money for it,YES on removal of Saddam Hussein and YES on the recent Bush-sponsored tax-cuts bill, Case could be Akaka’s twin on most issues of the day. In spite of his overall Democrat record, Case is viewed in many quarters as a stealth Republican. He can’t seem to shake that. It’s what you hear in liberal Democrat circles.

The reality is that most of his record is consistent with Hawaii Democratic values.

He voted to allow human embryonic stem cell research. He is against restricting minors traveling interstate for abortions. He’s against banning partial birth abortions and against forbidding human cloning for research purposes. NARAL has rated him 100 percent as a pro-choice House member.

Then he surprises you, voting against both the Central America and Australia free trade agreements.

He stunned me by making an in-and-out trip to Israel and Palestine and coming back and publicly speaking as if he knew all the issues clearly in one week.

And just when you figure that as a longtime lawyer he must be in the trial lawyers’ pockets, he votes to limit attorney fees in class-action lawsuits.

Then you get that resolution he voted for. It affirms that the United States and the world have been made safer with the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq. That’s certainly news to me.

YES on allowing military recruitment on campus. Does that lose the mostly liberal UH faculty?

So maybe as a liberal you’re ready to diss him on Iraq. Then you see that the Christian Coalition rates him highly for anti-family-values because he’s against prayer in school, didn’t vote to make flag desecration a crime and won’t go along with requiring the Pledge of Allegiance as a mandatory recitation.

He also opposed a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

So except for the war and the recent tax bill, you seem to have Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

Which brings us back to the real “issue” on which you’ll vote - do you give Good Ole Boy Dan a final term and maybe a chance to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda? Or pack him off or ask that he do a Hiram Fong and retire to something here at home ‘til death do us part? Fong was 71 when he opted out of re-election and 86 when he died.

Sounds pretty crass and without mercy, I know, but that’s going to be the crux of this election.

Normally, I’d be giving heavy odds to Akaka. But then that Time article, and besides there’s a new Mainland haole element in Hawaii, not steeped in the Old Democrat, AJA tradition. Also, Republicans will have to make a Democrat choice in the primary because they’ll have no candidate with a ghost of a chance. My guess is they’ll go Case and hope he eventually leans a bit more conservative. What do they have to lose?

Hawaiians can be expected to go for Akaka, but how many of them will go to the polls primary day? It’s a Saturday, a beach and picnic day, and UH plays a home football game against Las Vegas. Former governor candidate Frank Fasi can tell you loads about that combination pitfall.

So the pendulum seems to be swinging Case’s way.

But only a betting idiot would take odds right now.

There’s plenty of time for one of the candidates to step into something really nasty.

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