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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Clayton Hee enters congressional race

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer


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State Sen. Clayton Hee yesterday added his name to a growing list of well-known Democrats vying for the U.S. House seat in the 2nd Congressional District.

Hee is counting on his absolute support for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka to set him apart in a field that includes several present and former state lawmakers.

Akaka faces a primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who is vacating the seat Hee is seeking.

"I believe it's important to have a keiki o ka 'aina in Congress," said Hee, 53, who, like Akaka, is Native Hawaiian. "If something were to happen to Sen. (Daniel K.) Inouye, I'd rather have Sen. Akaka representing us than our opponent."

Hee, who represents Kane'ohe and Kahuku in the state Senate, also says he knows his district. He has lived in Windward O'ahu most of his life and still owns a home on Moloka'i, where he was a teacher and a state representative.

Hee, a former Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee, is midway through a four-year state Senate term and will not have to resign to run.

Since returning to the state Legislature in 2004, Hee has distinguished himself as chairman of the Higher Education Committee with tough questioning of University of Hawai'i leaders, and has been a vocal opponent of a University Affiliated Research Center, as well as of the Board of Regents' decision to forgo a national presidential search to offer the job to David McClain.

Hee said his priority in Congress would be setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. In addition, he said, he would seek modifications to the No Child Left Behind Act.

As for local issues, Hee said he would like to see adjustments to the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. "I believe what will be very important is to lower the blood quantum for Hawaiians to be eligible for Hawaiian Home Lands," he said.

He said he would like to see those with 25 percent Hawaiian blood be eligible for leases on land now set apart by Congress for those who are at least half-Hawaiian. He said he also would like to to open dialogue on making the homesteads available for purchase.

Since deciding to run on May 8, Hee said, he has raised $100,000 toward his goal of $300,000 to $500,000 for the primary contest.

The field for the Democratic primary includes three of Hee's Senate colleagues Colleen Hanabusa, Gary Hooser and Ron Menor; state Rep. Brian Schatz; former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga.

So far, no Republicans have filed papers for the seat, although state Sen. Bob Hogue and former state Sen. Quentin Kawananakoa have announced their candidacies.

Hee was elected to the state House in 1982, the state Senate in 1984 and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs in 1990. He lost a bid for lieutenant governor in 2002, then returned to the state Senate in 2004.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.