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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 2, 2006

Carlisle might run for Case’s seat

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Political analysts said yesterday that the possible entry of Honolulu prosecutor Peter Carlisle into the campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the U.S. Congress could add a new dimension to a race that already has the potential to shake up Hawai'i politics.

Carlisle, in media interviews, said yesterday he is considering a campaign in the 2nd Congressional District but would not say whether he would run as a Republican or Democrat or otherwise elaborate on his plans. The prosecutor's office is nonpartisan but Carlisle recently attended the GOP's Lincoln Day dinner, and several observers believe he would likely run as a Republican.

"I haven't made up my mind definitively," Carlisle said. "I know that sounds like sort of the standard answer, but for me it's actually true, I haven't."

State Sen. Bob Hogue and former Honolulu City Councilman Mike Gabbard have said publicly that they are interested in the Republican primary next September for the 2nd District, which covers Central, Leeward and Windward O'ahu and the Neighbor Islands. They both said yesterday that their own planning would not be immediately influenced by Carlisle.

As a prosecutor who has said in the past that he likes to avoid politics, Carlisle would come into the race from outside the party's structure and would likely benefit from his image as a crimefighter. He may lack name recognition on the Neighbor Islands, observers say, but so would Hogue and Gabbard. Hogue represents the Windward side in the Senate and Gabbard served the Leeward Coast while on the City Council.

Carlisle won a record third four-year term as prosecutor in 2004 and he would not have to give up his job to run for Congress.

"I think he's probably a pretty formidable candidate," said Neil Milner, a political science professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. "He's more of a proven vote-getter.

"It certainly does kick up the competition a notch."

Milner said a potential Carlisle campaign is the latest political domino to fall since Case's surprise announcement in January that he would run against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary for the Senate. Milner said Carlisle, if he were to run as a Republican and win, would have a strong chance against the winner of a difficult Democratic primary.

State Sen. Gary Hooser, state Sen. Ron Menor and state Rep. Brian Schatz have already filed papers to run in the Democratic primary. Former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa have said they are running. Former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga and former Honolulu City Councilman Duke Bainum have said they are considering the race. State Rep. Roy Takumi had said he was thinking about running but has since declined.

Hogue said he is still a few months away from deciding for the Republican primary. "I think it would make it very exciting," Hogue said of a Carlisle campaign.

Gabbard said he is still thinking about whether to run for Congress or in the Republican primary for the state Senate in District 19, which is now held by Sen. Brian Kanno, a Democrat.

Sam Aiona, the state GOP chairman, said the party does not want to be in the position to pick a candidate although there will likely be pressure among Republicans to help the strongest contender. But he praised Carlisle.

"We'd be thrilled if Peter Carlisle ran as a Republican in this congressional race," Aiona said. "I think he's proven his electability."

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.