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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 21, 2006

Akaka to woo Hawaiians

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, worried about historically low voter turnout among Hawaiians, will spend Saturday in a handful of Hawaiian neighborhoods on O'ahu to help get out the vote.

Akaka's campaign advisers believe the senator has the advantage among traditional Democrats in Saturday's primary against U.S. Rep. Ed Case, but they are concerned that low turnout among Hawaiians could be a problem. The latest Honolulu Advertiser/KHNL News 8 Hawai'i Poll had Akaka up substantially over Case among Hawaiians.

The senator, who is of Hawaiian and Chinese descent, is expected to visit neighborhoods in Papakolea, Waimanalo, Wai'anae and Nanakuli in the hours before the polls close.

"I feel the Hawaiian vote is important for me to be re-elected," Akaka said yesterday. "I want to continue to serve Hawaiians as a Native Hawaiian. I still feel that parity should be reached with the government among indigenous people and the Hawaiians have not been recognized."

Case said Hawaiians, like other voters, should be receptive to his pitch for leadership transition. The congressman also said it is U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, not Akaka, who is most responsible for delivering federal money each year for Hawaiian programs.

"Everybody in Hawai'i, Native Hawaiians and otherwise, should be firmly focused on the need for transition now. Everybody, including Native Hawaiians, should be focused on national leadership," Case said. "And everybody, including Native Hawaiians, can and should be focused on the need for change in Hawai'i."

Several Hawaiian leaders appeared at a news conference yesterday at Akaka's campaign headquarters and asked Hawaiians to vote Saturday. Former Gov. John Waihee cited Akaka's votes against the Bush administration on issues such as withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by July 2007 and opposing an extension of the USA Patriot Act expanding electronic surveillance.

"The guy I want is the guy who showed conscience, and Akaka showed conscience," Waihee said.

While Hawaiian groups are mobilizing for the senator, the National Association of Realtors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are working independently to help Case. The Realtors' political action committee has sent out a new direct mail piece urging voters to make a sea change and vote for Case.

The national chamber has sent out e-mails and a direct mail piece this week that encourage voters to learn more about the candidates through a chamber Web site and suggests voters can make their voices heard by pulling a Democratic ballot, which could help Case among independents and Republican crossover voters.

The chamber launched another round of automated phone calls, this time criticizing Akaka for not supporting tax relief. The chamber's first round appealed to absentee voters and promoted Case.

The Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i has a long-standing practice of not endorsing candidates.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.