Case claims Hanabusa wants to delay Hawaii election for Abercrombie's seat
By MARK NIESSE
HONOLULU — Former Democratic Congressman Ed Case accused his Democratic rival, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, of wanting to stall Hawaii’s election for its soon-to-be vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“You consider it to your political advantage to put this special election off as long as possible,” Case said Wednesday during the race’s first public debate at the Smart Business Hawaii annual conference.
Hawaii’s elections office can’t afford to pay for the nearly $1 million vote-by-mail special election, so it may need the governor and Legislature to make an emergency appropriation. Case said Hanabusa should push state lawmakers to make sure the election can be held as soon as May 1.
Hanabusa replied that the Legislature wouldn’t have anything to do with the process if Gov. Linda Lingle transfers $1.3 million recently found due to an accounting error. It’s unclear whether that money, which was distributed to Hawaii by the federal government in 2003 to reimburse the state for new voting machines, can be spent on an election.
“We don’t do anything. It is up to the governor. The governor can simply make that transfer if she wants to,” Hanabusa said. “We have to wait before the actual vacancy occurs before we can do anything.”
Hawaii’s congressional seat is coming open because U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, is stepping down Feb. 28 to pursue a run for governor. By law, the special election would take place at least 60 days afterward, on or after May 1.
The victor of the winner-take-all special election — Case, Hanabusa or Republican Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou — will become the favorite to win a full term in this fall’s regularly scheduled elections.
“I think your facts are wrong. Why don’t you go back and check them out?” Case asked about Hanabusa’s claim that Lingle could spend the money without legislative action.
Hanabusa replied, “I have.”
The three candidates sought to define themselves at the forum.
Case portrayed himself as an independent rogue who won’t hesitate to vote against his political party. He fell into disfavor with some Democrats after he mounted an unsuccessful run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2006.
Hanabusa painted herself as the loyal Democrat who said she’d be a team player. She was endorsed by Akaka and Sen. Daniel Inouye when she opened her campaign headquarters Saturday.
Djou is the conservative outsider who said he could break up the Democratic Party’s hold on the state’s four congressional seats.
“What clearly has not been working thus far is what’s going on in Washington, D.C. Has this stimulus package helped you? Has it helped your business?” Djou said. “This is not the right way to run our government. This is not the right way to fix our economy.”
Djou got the loudest applause from the audience made up largely of small-business owners. His no tax increase, small government message resounded with the group.
“Throwing more money at the problem never fixes anything and certainly won’t get us out of this recession,” Djou said. “When the government needs more revenue, the best way for the government to raise more revenues is to make sure the economy is growing.”