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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ed Case is the best choice for Congress

 •  Five Questions: Ed Case
 •  Five Questions: Charles Djou
 •  Five Questions: Colleen Hanabusa

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Some have suggested the race to represent the 1st District is a "national" contest, a referendum on President Obama's policies, a vessel for sending a message about the direction of the country.

We see this race in much more parochial terms, that it is simply about selecting a capable and thoughtful person to represent the district and to be a responsive, responsible advocate for Hawai'i.

All three leading candidates are accomplished and intelligent, and they have run mostly campaigns that have focused on the issues and on their positions.

Of the three, we believe Democrat Ed Case is the best person for the job.

In four years representing the Second District, Case demonstrated a commitment to the work that was nothing short of heroic. Representing a district 5,000 miles from the capital requires stamina and focus, and unlike many members of Congress whose trips to Hawai'i become less frequent after a few years in office, Case returned regularly and held 172 community meetings, an average of four a month.

In Washington, he answered 2,000 House roll call votes, introduced 35 bills and sponsored or cosponsored 700 more.

Politically, Case has proven himself to be an independent thinker, going back to his days as a pariah in the Democratically controlled state House when he, as well as Colleen Hanabusa, bucked the powerful government unions and pushed through changes in civil service laws.

While Case's trajectory took him farther outside the Democrats' gravitational pull, Hanabusa settled into a closer orbit and is now one of the state's most powerful Democratic Party leaders. We don't hold that against her, and we don't take the endorsements of Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka as a guarantee that Hanabusa would mimic their policies.

But as Case proved by running against the popular Akaka in 2006, he is willing to go against the grain, something that is too rare in Hawai'i's clubby little power structure. If Ed Case was only interested in what's good for Ed Case, as his detractors argue, he'd still be sitting in his safe Second District seat, waiting for the opening to run for the Senate.

Unlike Hanabusa, whose campaign advertising positions her as a loyal helper to President Obama, Case is critical of many aspects of the new health care law, especially its lack of any mechanism to bring down doctors' malpractice premiums by limiting jury awards. He advocates the sale of medical insurance across state lines.

And we agree with his assessment that the carefully crafted Akaka bill was damaged by the rewriting of some critical language at the request of the Obama administration. Case believes the new version requires hearings in Hawai'i and further discussion, and he's right.

Case is also genuinely aggravated by the deficit spending virus in Washington that seems to have robbed both parties of their senses.

It is on this point that we are most troubled by Hanabusa, who appears to have no problem with runaway spending in Washington and the deepening deficit. As for pork, the more Hawai'i can gorge on, the better.

For someone as smart and experienced as Hanabusa is, it is disappointing that she offers only this simple-minded one-liner to describe her position on government spending: "While the rising national debt continues to remain a concern, I do know that the more prosperous America is, the faster we can pay off the debt incurred."

We admire Hanabusa's leadership of the Senate and many of the Democratic social ideals she embraces. But sending her to Washington would simply be replacing Neil Abercrombie with a female Neil Abercrombie, and we believe it's time for a new perspective.

The accelerating pace of deficit spending, as well as the increasing strain aging Baby Boomers are placing on entitlement programs, demand immediate attention from Congress, not a shrug and sunny hopes for a happier tomorrow.

Charles Djou represents the future of the Republican Party in Hawai'i. He is thoughtful and hardworking, conservative on social and fiscal issues but not intractable. His worries about the deficit and the expense of the stimulus are legitimate, but he needs to show that he's as much of a problem solver as he is a problem finder.

If the results of this election are seen by pundits and party insiders as a referendum on the direction of the country, then the election of Ed Case should send this message: Hawai'i is still more comfortable with Democrats, but not with the status quo.