Akaka survives challenge, looks ahead to Nov. 7

It was clear Saturday that registered Democrats in Hawai‘i preferred Sen. Daniel Akaka over Congressman Ed Case for the Democratic ticket for senator in the Nov. 7 general election. What is not clear is who Akaka will face that first Tuesday in November.

The Republican receiving the most votes in the primary for Senator was Jerry Coffee, a candidate who dropped out of the race due to heart surgery weeks ago, too late to be left off the ballot.

“It is in the hands of Gov. Linda Lingle,” Akaka said late yesterday. “The governor will select who she feels best will serve the Republican party.”

Names of possible candidates have not been offered freely. One name that has bobbed to the surface as a possibility is Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou.

“The name you hear most — Djou — has said he doesn’t want it,” Akaka said.

Lingle has three days to name the candidate, and has faced some criticism for not naming the person ahead of Saturday’s primary.

“We don’t know who it will be, but she needs to name the person soon,” Akaka said.

In Saturday’s primary the Akaka/Case race was the most contested and was billed as the race to determine Hawai‘i’s readiness for a transition in leadership. The race centered around questions of age with the 82-year-old Akaka challenged by Case who will turn 54 Wednesday.

“This race was a question whether we were ready to let Sen. Akaka go and we could not agree that it was time to go on to the next generation in the Senate,” Case said yesterday.

Akaka felt the race was not about whether he should be put out to pasture.

“I am not too old, I have gained all of this seniority and I have gained wisdom, as a matter of fact in this point in time I can do more for this country and better serve Hawai‘i than any time before,” Akaka said. “Kupuna is very revered, I have the respect and I will share the wisdom.”

Akaka captured 129,107 votes to Case’s 107,115.

But Case said he was successful in getting his message out. “I asked people to look at Hawai‘i politics differently than they do,” Case said. “It appears a majority weren’t ready for the version of change I put forward.”

Case was not ready yesterday to say how serious of a defeat the primary was.

“I don’t know yet because I have not seen the precinct-by-precinct counts and it’s a little too early to tell,” he said. “We got the basics, we put the choice to the people … I am satisfied that we got our version of what the choice entailed to the voters.”

Akaka talked of what he accomplished in clear terms. “The voters wanted to have someone to represent the people of Hawai‘i and the spirit of Hawai‘i, and I’ve talked about that in my campaign and that is something the people preferred.”

Case called Akaka shortly after midnight Sunday morning to concede the race.

“He told me he was conceding the race and was offering me his support,” Akaka said.

Case said that he will complete his term as congressman and in January when he’s out of a job, he will re-evaluate.

“I have to make some pretty basic assessments about whether I have a future in elective politics,” Case said. “There’s nothing worse than a politician who doesn’t know when to give up.”

Case thinks his 12 years may be all there is.

Akaka was up bright and early Sunday attending a Democratic unity breakfast. It was time for the Democratic party to pull together, to unite and face the general election, Akaka said.

“We are waiting to hear who (my challenger) will be, then we will sit down and begin to strategize about what we need to do.”

• Adam Harju, editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 227) or aharju@kauaipubco.com

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