U.S. House race draws Kawananakoa back into politics
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
Quentin Kawananakoa, a former state representative and heir to the Campbell Estate fortune, thought politics was behind him after his surprise withdrawal from the Republican primary for U.S. House eight years ago for health reasons.
But Kawananakoa said he knew almost instantly that he wanted another chance when he heard in January that U.S. Rep. Ed Case would leave his congressional seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
"I began to realize that I had to step up for my kids," said Kawananakoa, who is expected to announce his campaign for the Republican primary in the U.S. House today in Kailua. "How could I expect them to be responsible citizens in society if I wasn't showing them what that means?"
The Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District, which covers Central, Leeward and Windward O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands, took on more clarity on Friday when Honolulu prosecutor Peter Carlisle said he wanted to complete his third term as prosecutor and would not run for Congress.
State Sen. Bob Hogue announced his campaign last weekend and, while the filing deadline is not until July, it appears that Hogue and Kawananakoa will be the main contenders for the Republican primary.
The two men spoke at St. Anthony's Church in Kailua on Easter.
"I wish him the best of luck, Hogue said. "We agreed that it was going to be a friendly, positive race."
The state GOP has said it will be neutral in the September primary and will be ready to support the winner against the Democrats in November. Former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, state Sen. Gary Hooser, state Rep. Brian Schatz, former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga and state Sen. Ron Menor are running in the Democratic primary.
Republicans, as the minority party in the Islands, have had some challenges in the past in fielding competitive candidates. But Sam Aiona, the GOP chairman, said both Hogue and Kawananakoa could compete well against any of the Democrats.
"He certainly has the credentials," Aiona said of Kawananakoa. "As I've been saying, when the majority party in Congress sits down and makes decisions, we need to have someone there from Hawai'i."
Kawananakoa raised more than $53,000 by the end of March and believes he might need $750,000 to $1 million for the campaign. He said he planned to continue to ask supporters for contributions but will have the option of using his personal wealth, which could give him a financial edge over Hogue, who raised less than $10,000 through March.
Kawananakoa said among the issues he will discuss during the campaign is greater self-sufficiency for Hawaiians, including a Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill that would give Hawaiians the right to form their own government and could protect Hawaiian-only programs from legal challenges. He also said he wanted to make sure U.S. soldiers are given enough respect and resources, both in battle and when they return home. He described the war in Iraq, which he supported, as a "trial by error."
He said he also wants to retool the federal No Child Left Behind law, which he said is a well-intended attempt to provide accountability in public education but fails to recognize the diversity among schools.
Kawananakoa, a former House minority leader, said he expects questions from voters about his August 1998 decision to drop out of the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District in urban Honolulu a month before the election. He left the race citing high blood pressure, heart palpitations and severe headaches.
Over the past several years, Kawananakoa has represented O'ahu on the Hawaiian Homes Commission and has worked with his extended family on the financial transition as the Campbell Estate dissolves next year.
He said he and his wife, Elizabeth, have discussed the likelihood his campaign would revive old rumors about why he withdrew in 1998 and would inevitably bring up a 1980s guilty plea for cocaine possession. The couple have two young sons.
"How can I be an example to them if I run from the truth? I can't run from the truth and I can't be afraid of the lies," Kawananakoa said.
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.