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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 22, 2006

Voters, not Democrat brass, should decide

There was a clear undercurrent of unhappiness, perhaps even outrage, in some Democratic Party circles when word came out Thursday that Congressman Ed Case would challenge incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka this fall.

The theme: This is just not done.

"This," declared Congressman Neil Abercrombie, "will test whether Hawai'i is still Hawai'i."

Senior Sen. Daniel K. Inouye declared himself "stunned" and asked Case to reconsider.

But step back for a moment and consider: Is it really that wrong to give voters a choice in an election as important as one for the U.S. Senate? Is this truly too momentous a decision to be left to the electorate?

Of course not. A long, and we hope serious and substantive, campaign is ahead of us during which we can measure the strengths and weaknesses of Case and Akaka. This will serve the voters better than another walk-in by an established incumbent.

And indeed, one cannot rule out the possibility that others might enter the race, although it is hard to imagine anyone else who would have the momentum and experience Case and Akaka bring to the table.

There are clear differences between the two on matters of importance to Hawai'i, such as the Jones Act, which Akaka favors and Case opposes.

Forceful and measured debate between the two candidates on this and other issues would be a service for the voters and might even drive up interest in the fall elections.