Akaka leaves a political void

Give U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka credit for a graceful announcement of his retirement after getting a less-than-gentle shove from his Democratic colleagues.

Akaka announced months ago that he planned to run for re-election in 2012 at 88, but he’d raised a paltry $66,000 for a likely formidable challenge from former Gov. Linda Lingle in a race that could cost $3 million to $6 million.

Fellow senators gave him their first hint that they didn’t think he was their best chance at beating Lingle when they dropped him as chairman of the Veteran Affairs Committee, which embarrassed him and cost him political capital at home.

Then a week ago, fellow Hawai‘i Sen. Daniel Inouye said pointedly that Akaka shouldn’t expect the outpouring of financial and and moral support he received from colleagues in 2006 when he faced a primary challenge from former Rep. Ed Case.

Now that Akaka has gotten the message and announced he’ll step down after finishing his term, the big question is whether the Democrats who nudged him out were right that they can find a stronger candidate to take on Lingle.

Though his age and failure to pass his signature Akaka bill for native Hawaiian political recognition were becoming liabilities, Akaka has been one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in politics during his more than 30 years in Washington and enjoys a deep well of aloha among local voters. He hasn’t lost an election since 1974.

The four Democrats most likely to run for the seat — U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Case — all have spotty records with voters and have lost as many or more big races as they’ve won.

In listing potential candidates, Inouye mentioned a couple of intriguing younger and fresher possibilities in Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and Tammy Duckworth, a McKinley grad who is assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but a crowded primary might be politically problematic for either.

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17 Comments on “Akaka leaves a political void”

  1. Jeff201 Says:

    I don’t see how Lingle can win. With Obama at the top of the ticket and likely to get 70% of the vote again, I think that’s just too much of an obstacle for any Republican to overcome.

    Whomever the Democrat is will just tie themselves to Obama, feature him prominently in their ads etc. It was basically the strategy Hanabusa used and it worked to perfection

  2. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Jeff201 says: “I don’t see how Lingle can win.”

    Jeff, I think it’s spelled “M.O.N.E.Y” Lingle’s got it. A lot of it and the promise of a lot more.

    The one with the most money doesn’t always win but it sure makes for an interesting race.

  3. Guido Sarducci Says:

    Clean sweep:
    Abercrombie and Schatz should both resign and jump in this race. Hirono and Hanabusa too.

    Lets start all over.

  4. ppcc Says:

    from Richard:
    “The one with the most money doesn’t always win but it sure makes for an interesting race.”

    That is what Boylan said and maybe true in the past however no longer applies. If this were true, Mufi should have won the Governors race or at least been close in the primary with Abercrombie. True, Lingle probably got money from special interest for vetoing Civil Unions, however I have the feeling all of the money she received for her veto will in the end never compensate for the loss of support and votes from mainstream residents. Again look at Mufi as the case study in which money alone will NOT be the determining factor on who wins Akaka’s seat. Yes, a candidate needs money but only enough to get the message out and to maintain and grow supporters. Lingle’s opponents will have a field day on her public BS arguments on why she vetoed the CU bill (ie it will affect public school children, it will affect jobs of people, CU is another name for same sex marriage, etc.) Lingle might have had a good argument to defend against all who said student furloughs were her fault however her veto of CU is absolutely indefensible in the majority of Hawaii votes.

    Seems the “old” political “experts” in Hawaii think money is the key, however I think that is NOT true given our environment of massive State and Federal debt, demands for 5% wage reductions, massive increases gov’t fees, taxes, electricity, water, sewage, food, insurance, etc YET or local leaders continue to provide massive amounts of money with no accountability to the DOE, UH, and the RAIL PROJECT. The “right” politician with a fiscally conservative agenda yet is mindful to gov’t union workers; intelligent, knowledgable yet can simply but effectively explain to Hawaii’s multicultural voters on WHY the current local democratic “same old, same old” politicians (and out debate them as well) need to be replaced, I think can overcome any inadequacies in campaign funding.

  5. ppcc Says:


    ..however her veto of CU is absolutely indefensible for the majority of Hawaii voters.

  6. zzzzzing Says:

    Sen. Akaka could have spared himself the embarrassment had opted not to run last time, but still, it was a rather rude send-off from members of his own party – especially Inouye.

    LIngle may very well not win, but I highly doubt it would be because she vetoed the CU bill.

  7. ppcc Says:

    Forgot to add that the “right” politician who will be successful in defeating the “same old, same old” in Hawaii will NOT be a religious fanatic whose political goals are to overturn R v Wade and civil unions.

  8. ppcc Says:

    “LIngle may very well not win, but I highly doubt it would be because she vetoed the CU bill.”

    Of course winning vs losing a political race often goes beyond only one issue but that is a MAJOR issue. Lingle will forever be on the defensive if she should run because her political opponents can easily associate her with LIARS (Round table execs who lied that all of the businesses of this organization supported repeal of the CU bill) and CHEATERS (Arakaki’s misuse of tax exempt money to lobby against CU) in her decision to veto CU. Any political opponents against her will have field day on this AND student furloughs in which she went along with. Yes, you can add the SuperFerry fiasco, support for Stone and his ghost Aquarium, former chief of Staff Awana and his “mystery” Bangkok vacations, “don’t call me boy” Befitel appointment, Ted “{from the AG’s office: he is not a criminal, just incompetent…” Liu, etc.

  9. ppcc Says:

    Here is the link to the article on Awana:


  10. Michael Says:

    lingle has the backing of unions. May how I know this, google back in time and see how lingle got elected Mayor of Maui or ask Larry. lingle left her governors office with hands clean. Not my fault so let the next Governor handle this issue. she will try to sit on the foundation that Senator Akaka built
    and ride on her laurels as she pushes for the Akaka Bill in her name.

    Senator Akaka is too nice a person to be in Politics. He has too much Heart. I can see the sadness in his eyes. He is a man who is beat.
    He did what he did, wholeheartedly for Native Hawaiians. Senator Akaka is tired but he will never retire. Only in office. I would not be surprised that his Akaka Bill will eventually pass.

  11. Richard Gozinya Says:

    I keep hearing John Waihee’s name cropping up. I think that’s scary but your mileage may vary.

  12. Kolea Says:

    I personally like John Waihee, but that aint gonna happen. Nor will Schatz or Tammy Duckworth jump in the race.

    I think the race is Lingle’s to lose. She will have much more money than the Democrat and money means putting people to work right away. Lenny Klompus has resigned his job in order to take on “consulting,” which I read to mean working on rehabilitating Lingle’s reputation.

    Dave is right that each of the four obvious contenders among the Dems each have their vulnerabilities: Hanabusa, Hirono, Mufi and Case. Both Case and Mufi were damaged in the last election cycle. Ed’s damage is more difficult to gauge and may depend upon the particular circumstances of a race. Mufi was rejected by the voters. They just do not like him. And, it is personal. It doesn’t matter how much money he has. He cannot win a Senate race.

    At this point, my mind is pretty open (except for Mufi)as between the Democrats. If Eric Shinseki is ever to consider running for elective office, this might be his opportunity. Let me qualify that by saying I know nothing about his stand of the various issues, nor have i seen him deliver a political speech, work a room or debate an opponent. I am JUST working off his image and his resume. With Shinseki, Lingle would have a very tough time.

    My heart goes with Mazie. But my brain suggests it might be better to keep her, and Hanabusa, safe in their House seats and bring in someone else for the Senate seat.

  13. Michael Says:

    I hear Ben Cayetano’s name blowing in the wind.
    Recently like a ghost from the past he steps in on rail and etc. etc. He must be planning something.
    He is not that old and can still be an influence to Hawaii.

  14. WooWoo Says:

    It will be Lingle vs. Inouye. It may not say so on the ballot itself, but he will throw everything he has into this race, never mind his comments to Akaka about not being able to do that. The stakes are too high.

  15. Kolea Says:


    I think that is a useful comment, but I think it goes too far. If the race were ACTUALLY Inouye versus Lingle, I think Inouye would clean her clock. Framing it as a proxy war may give Republicans some satisfaction.

    Clearly, Senator Inouye will have a strong interest in who gets the seat. And, contrary to his statement about not being able to raise much money for Senator Akaka because of his changed responsibilities, I expect he will be able to beat the bushes for cash for his replacement, provided he agrees upon the choice.

    And if you want to frame it as Lingle v Inouye, why not frame it as the national GOP fundraising machine versus whatever Democrat gets the nomination? Clearly, the national GOP and their “independent” campaign operations are poised to pour a helluva lot of money into this race, so Lingle will not be running on her personal charm alone.

  16. Michael Says:

    I don’t see the Math. Senator Inouye is already guaranteed 1 seat. It seems when Senator Akaka leaves he takes the other seat with him. ?

    Those who don’t like Governor Abercrombie should vote for lingle as Senator.

  17. WooWoo Says:


    I don’t disagree with any of your statements. The race will have national implications and therefore national participation on both sides, much to my chagrin. Yes, of course Inouye would trounce Lingle heads up; I never intended to imply that she could compete with the Dan. I only meant that whomever Lingle faces will have serious help from Big D. Rs who think that they will be facing Mufi or Case or Mazie and get excited are missing the boat. I expect that Big D will be campaigning just as hard in 2012 as he did in 2010.

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