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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 10, 2004

Gabbard staking claim on Case's Congress seat

By Frank Oliveri
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The race between Rep. Ed Case and Honolulu councilman Mike Gabbard for Case's 2nd Congressional District seat won't be friendly.

Gabbard is challenging the first-term congressman on same-sex marriage and other hot-button issues. Also, Gabbard's war chest is nearly three times what Case has, pushing the incumbent to raise more money and counter Gabbard's attacks.

Here's a snippet of the sniping so far:

  • Case calls his opponent a single-issue Republican who views the world through a right-wing extremist prism. "I think Hawai'i Republicans view Gabbard as going backwards," Case said.
  • Gabbard, chairman of the Alliance for Traditional Marriage-Hawai'i, accuses Case of being an ineffective same-sex marriage supporter posing as a moderate Democrat. "He doesn't represent the views of the 2nd District," Gabbard said. "He doesn't represent Hawai'i."

By March 31, Gabbard had $104,776 in the bank, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Case has only $36,850, though he has raised $214,806 so far. About $10,000 comes from his own pocket, and another $10,000 from family.

Mike Gabbard has $104,776 in the bank to challenge Ed Case for the 2nd Congressional District.

Photo Courtesy Mike Gabbard

As a Democrat and incumbent, Ed Case believes he has the advantage — but he isn't sitting back.

Advertiser library photo

"At this point, having less than $100,000 (in the bank) would be a concern for most freshmen in Congress," said Nathan Gonzales, political analyst for the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

Among House members in their first term, Case ranks 49th out of 53 in campaign money raised to date, according to an Advertiser analysis of federal records.

Case emphasizes, however, that he has seniority over the other 52 first-term lawmakers because he served out the term of the late Patsy Mink. That will help him get a leg up when it comes to committee assignments.

Case plays down the importance of raising money. He said he follows the advice of his political mentor, Spark Matsunaga: "'Do what you're supposed to do, and people will send you back."

"I'm not only doing the right thing," Case said, "I'm doing the right thing to get re-elected. ... I focus on doing my job."

Still, he is working on his cash problems. He hired Democratic fund-raiser Paul DiNino and has several events planned in May. Case hopes to raise another $200,000 by June 30.

Neal Milner, a political science professor at the University of Hawai'i, said Case should have no trouble raising money in a state where Democrats traditionally have done well.

Although Republican Gov. Linda Lingle won 52 percent of the vote in 2002, the state's incumbents have never lost a race. "It's still an uphill battle for a conservative Republican in (Case's) district," Gonzales said.

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Case says Capitol Hill Democrats view his seat as safe, but he's warned them to take nothing for granted.

He said he had held at least 75 talk-story meetings in his district in the past year, and expects to lead two dozen more in coming months. He travels back to his district most weekends while maintaining a 93 percent voting attendance record in 2003. He hasn't missed a vote this year.

Milner said that unless Gabbard, an educator and small-business owner, can establish that he's more than a one-issue candidate, Case should win.

Nevertheless, Gabbard and Case are trading blows.

In a phone interview and unsolicited follow-up e-mail, Gabbard attacks Case for trying to defeat what became a state constitutional amendment that empowers the Legislature to decide the issue of same-sex marriage. The Legislature has restricted marriage to one man and one woman. Case would prefer that the courts decide.

Case also opposes a federal constitutional amendment to limit marriage to heterosexual couples; he says states should decide.

Both men call themselves fiscal conservatives. Case voted against President Bush's $550 billion tax cut last year, saying it would increase deficit spending. Gabbard signed a pledge in Washington promising never to support a tax increase if elected to Congress. Case refused to sign the pledge, saying, "you never say never."

"That speaks for itself," Gabbard replied. "This campaign is going to be about unmasking Ed Case."

However, Gabbard supported numerous tax and fee increases in his first year on the Honolulu City Council, Case says, and voted against a debt ceiling for Honolulu, something the state and federal governments have.

Gabbard points out that Republicans control the House, and "as soon as the people send me to Washington, I'll be in a more powerful, influential position than Ed Case is at present."

Case says he's been largely nonpartisan. In 2003, voting studies show he supported the president about 35 percent of the time. He voted to finance homeland security, defense and the Iraq war, and supported indecency fines against broadcasters.

But he opposed Bush's 2005 budget plan because it called for more tax cuts, which he believes would increase the deficit and reduce money for other programs.

"I've got a record to run on," Case said. "I'm not a single-issue guy. I know the people of my district better than anybody. They will have to decide. Is there a reason to change?"

The primary election will be held Sept. 18. The general election is Nov. 2.