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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 6, 2006

Akaka says he still thinks Native Hawaiian measure can pass

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ariel Chun, of Salt Lake, greets Sen. Daniel Akaka yesterday at "An Evening of Aloha." The event at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall kicked off Akaka's U.S. Senate re-election campaign.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka said he believes chances remain good of passing a bill authorizing a federally recognized Native Hawaiian government entity.

"I think people understand that the Akaka bill is very, very important to the future of, not only of Hawaiians, but the future of all people of Hawai'i, and we need to continue to work on that," said Akaka, who filed his nomination papers seeking re-election at the Leiopapa O Kamehameha State Office Tower yesterday.

Supporters of the bill, named after Akaka because he is its chief sponsor, last month failed to gain the necessary 60 votes on a cloture motion that would have forced a debate on the measure. But Akaka said the cause is not lost.

"It was amazing to know that all of the Democrats voted for it and to know that 13 Republicans voted for it," Akaka said. "As far as I'm concerned, that bill is a bipartisan bill ... and we will continue to work on it for the benefit of the people of Hawai'i."

Last week, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs voted unanimously to proceed with a process of establishing a separate government entity without the endorsement of Washington officials. Akaka said yesterday he does not view that move as a signal by OHA that it lacked confidence that the Akaka bill will pass.

"This tells me that they are very anxious to set up some kind of governance," Akaka said, acknowledging he did not know all the details of the OHA plan. He added that he expects the bill to pass in the next session.

"I believe that we need to continue to educate some of our colleagues and the rest of the country about the Hawaiians as an indigenous people of our country," Akaka said. "Our country takes care of indigenous people, and somehow the Hawaiians are not included in that and this is an attempt to bring recognition to the indigenous people of Hawai'i, the Native Hawaiians."

U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai'i, Akaka's chief challenger for his seat, said he will continue his support for the bill if he replaces Akaka, but added that he believes Akaka's analysis of the situation is too simplistic.

"The Akaka bill is a lot more problematic than what the senator indicates," Case said. "The opposition of the administration was pretty direct and unambiguous."

Case said he cannot say that he will do a better job of arguing for the bill than Akaka. "What I do know is that he tried, and that his effort was not successful," he said.

His overall approach as a senator would be different, Case said. "I will simply bring a different style to the Senate. I will bring a different energy level to my work, and I believe I would bring a different, overall direction."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.