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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 19, 2004

Case favors future run for U.S. Senate, not governor

By Frank Oliveri
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Sixteen days after winning a second term in Congress with 65 percent of the vote, Democratic Rep. Ed Case says he would run for the Senate should a position open.

"If a Senate seat were to open up, I'd run," he said yesterday.

Case also virtually dismissed any talk of a run for Hawai'i governor in two years, when Gov. Linda Lingle is expected to seek a second term.

Case's aspirations are significant because he is considered a potential rival to Lingle. Recent polls showed her job approval rating at 64 percent.

Looking relaxed in a blue, button-down shirt with open collar in his Capitol Hill office, Case said he has been asked many times in the past two weeks if he intends to run against Lingle. He said he would have a greater impact serving in Congress.

"I'm 52," he said. "If you think about spending 28 years in Congress — if 80 is the age of our two senators — you can get a lot done in 28 years."

Sens. Dan Inouye and Daniel Akaka are both 80 this year.

Akaka intends to run for re-election in 2006, spokesman Paul Cardus said. It would be his fourth term.

"Sen. Akaka definitely, clearly, most certainly plans on running for re-election in 2006," Cardus said.

Inouye, who could not be reached for comment, won re-election to his eighth term this year and is expected to serve through 2010. Both senators are considered to be in good health.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who recently won re-election to a ninth term, is not saying whether he would make a bid for a vacant Senate seat.

Abercrombie represents District 1 (urban Honolulu) in the U.S. House of Representatives; Case represents District 2, which covers the rest of Hawai'i.

Abercrombie spokesman Mike Slackman said the Democrat "expects Senator Akaka to run again and win again and looks forward to working with him. We don't want to speculate beyond that."

Neal Milner, a political scientist at the University of Hawai'i, said he wasn't surprised to hear that Case aspires to the U.S. Senate, but was surprised Case was speaking about it so soon.

"What he is saying is he is a young man, he can wait. Right now, he is arguably the most successful new Democrat in the state," Milner said. "He's the new person who ran during a time when Republicans have made a kind of renaissance in the state. He is positioned well for this."

Milner said time has passed by several "old-time Democrats" who wanted to run for the Senate — a group in which he included Abercrombie — because Inouye and Akaka have served so long.

Milner also said that politically it would make no sense for Case to run for the governor's seat for two reasons: Lingle is a strong incumbent and, in Hawai'i, the U.S. Senate is more prestigious.

"Relative to other states, it is not such a big deal being governor of a state like Hawai'i," Milner said.

He also speculated that Lingle might run for a vacant Senate seat if one should open because she is the state's most prominent Republican.

Lingle spokesman Lenny Klompus would say only that the news about Case was "interesting." He said Lingle was at a conference and couldn't be reached for comment.

In the meantime, Case said that with a number of senior Democrats leaving the House Agriculture Committee, he could gain a leadership role as a ranking member on a subcommittee. He said he also intends to focus on national issues now that he has established himself within his district.