Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 28, 2006

Case seat draws flood of applicants

By Jerry Burris
Advertiser Columnist

spacer spacer

If nothing else, the flood of people running for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ed Case has provided hours of entertainment for the political chattering classes.

The game is this: How do you handicap a race when so many reasonably qualified people, each with his or her own particular strength, have a decent shot? This is particularly true in the Democratic primary, where at least eight viable candidates are either in or likely to join the race.

The winner need only take a plurality, and not a particularly hefty one at that, to win. Complexities and issues will evolve over time, but at the moment, here's what they're saying out on the streets about these Washington hopefuls:

  • Clayton Hee: Pretty good name recognition, strong base in the Hawaiian community and on Moloka'i, which he represented, and in Windward O'ahu, which he represents in the state Senate today. Hee also can claim to have been successful in a statewide race, when he ran for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee.

  • Colleen Hanabusa: Smart, articulate, would appeal to women voters who appreciate her success in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. A high-profile state senator from Wai'anae, she can hold her own against anyone in a debate.

  • Mazie Hirono: Has a fair amount of campaign cash and strong recognition from her successful run in the Democratic primary for governor in 2002. A polished campaigner and veteran office-holder (state Legislature, lieutenant governor) she appeals to established Democrats.

  • Matt Matsunaga: Holds a fine, pedigreed political name (his father is the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga), served in the state Senate and achieved statewide recognition as Hirono's running mate in that race. Popular with Democrats and pulls toward the younger ones.

  • Brian Schatz: Has the distinction of being the only one of the current Democratic office-holders who will have to give up his seat to make the race, suggesting he truly wants the job. A good grass-roots campaigner with a liberal voting record, he'd appeal to younger voters.

  • Gary Hooser: A strong liberal voting record in the state Senate and strong name recognition on Kaua'i, which he represents, gives him a running start on the all-important Neighbor Island vote. He's the only candidate from the Neighbor Islands, which make up half the district.

  • Nestor Garcia: Again, strong name recognition from his work on the Honolulu City Council, in the Legislature and as a former television newsman. Personable, articulate and likely to do well among voters of Filipino ancestry.

  • Ron Menor: Another with a strong political pedigree in that his father was well known in Democratic Party circles. Menor has worked tirelessly in the Legislature for a number of years and has achieved strong recognition for his work on consumer issues. Would also do well among Filipino voters.

    On the Republican side, the primary offers a much sharper focus, with Windward state Sen. Bob Hogue facing off against attorney Quentin Kawananakoa. Hogue has high name recognition from his work as a sports columnist and broadcaster. Kawananakoa, member of a storied family, is a former state representative who ran for Congress eight years ago but had to drop out then for health reasons.

    Eventually, the chattering and handicapping will give way to money and energy; the candidate with the most will likely win. But at the moment, the field is wide open, and everyone is having a grand old time.

    Jerry Burris is The Advertiser's editorial page editor.

    Reach Jerry Burris at jburris@honoluluadvertiser.com.