Which Way Will Ed Run?

The rarest of Washington creatures - a moderate - Democratic Congressman Ed Case ponders whether a run against Republican Gov. Linda Lingle might be in his future in 2006, or if he’ll wait for an opening in the U.S. Senate, where Hawaii is represented by two men who will turn 81 this year.

Dan Boylan
Wednesday - February 24, 2005
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In October 2001, state Rep. Ed Case announced for governor. Hawaii’s political community yawned. Few gave him even an outside chance of winning.

The reasons were several. First, Case would have to get by the well-financed candidacy of Mayor Jeremy Harris and his base in Honolulu Hale.

Or he would meet the better-connected effort of Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and her strong party support.

Case had also created some problems all his own. As a legislator, he had alienated organized labor, many in the Hawaiian community and a goodly number of his fellow Democrats in the state House.

But things began to go Case’s way. Beset by campaign fund-raising violations, Harris pulled out of the governor’s race. Hirono proved an inept campaigner. On primary election day 2002, Case came within 2,600 votes of winning the Democratic Party nomination.


Case had scarcely taken down his campaign signs when Patsy Mink’s death left the Second District congressional seat open. He immediately announced for the vacancy and easily won the late November special election.

A month later Case triumphed over former law partner Matt Matsunaga, state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and state Rep. Barbara Marumoto for Mink’s full two-year term. Last fall, he easily beat back a challenge from Republican Mike Gabbard to win a second term.

“It was pretty lonely out there,” Case admits of the early months of his yearlong campaign for two different offices. “I’d sign-wave alone, with (wife) Audrey, or with a small group of supporters.

“My campaign was very grass-roots, from the ground up. We were outside the Hawaii beltway. We trusted the voters and didn’t listen to the conventional wisdom. It required a lot of hard, hard, hard work. Every day, every minute. And you have to do it yourself. I couldn’t just depend on others.

“Someone’s compared it to planting a yard. You put in tufts of grass, here and there; and then they grow together.”

Case continues his planting. During his first term in Congress, he held 80 “talk story” sessions with his Second District constituents. Three weeks ago, with the beginning of his second term in Congress, Case began another cycle of meetings with the people he represents.

ED Case needs an umbrella. It’s raining heavily as he gets out of his Honda Accord and walks across the parking lot of the Waianae Neighborhood Center on a recent Saturday. His Waianae Coast constituents, many of whom have brought their umbrellas, have begun to gather for this, his first “Talk Story” session of his second term.

Case enters the meeting room and immediately begins shaking hands. Members of his staff have preceded him with doughnuts and a cooler of drinks. In the corner, Case press secretary Randy Obata sets up a video camera. The day’s talks will eventually appear on community access television.

Looking out at the gathering of 35 or so, Case sees a couple in orange T-shirts. “I see the AARP is well-represented,” he says. A gray-haired lady, shaking her umbrella, replies, “All the ducks are out.”

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