Posted tagged ‘Mazie Hirono’

An issue of congressional residency

August 15, 2011

I got a note from a supporter of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa asking why her fellow Rep. Mazie Hirono hasn’t gotten as much scrutiny as Hanabusa over whether she moved into the district she represents.

The main reason is that, unlike Hanabusa, Hirono never promised she’d move if elected.

Last year’s election put Hawai‘i in a bizarre situation in which neither of our congresswomen could vote for themselves. Federal law requires only that representatives live in the state, not the district.

Hirono lived in East Honolulu in the 1st Congressional District when she was elected in 2006 to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in the 2nd Congressional District. She never moved into the district she represents and is now running for the U.S. Senate.

Hanabusa lived in Ko Olina in the 2nd Congressional District when she was elected last year to represent urban Honolulu in the 1st Congressional District. Under heavy pressure on the residency issue from her opponent, Charles Djou, she pledged to move into the district if elected and kept the promise by renting a Kakaako apartment.

Hanabusa still hasn’t sold her Ko Olina home and it could be moved into the 1st District for the next election if the state Reapportionment Commission has its way, but a Hanabusa spokesman said she plans to sell the Ko Olina property and buy closer to town either way.

The residency issue came up in the 2006 Democratic primary in the 2nd District, but Hirono’s opponents, who included Hanabusa, never put enough pressure on her to elicit a clear promise to move. Here’s how I reported her position in a column before that year’s primary:

Hirono, the former lieutenant governor who lives in Honolulu, says she would like to move to the 2nd District, but stopped short of saying she actually will do so if her campaign succeeds.

At candidate forums, Hirono has expressed concerns about uprooting her 82-year-old mother, who lives with her, from her familiar surroundings.

“I’d love to live in the 2nd District, especially on one of the Neighbor Islands,” Hirono said. “My biggest challenge will be making a decision about where to live, because I enjoy each island for many different reasons.

“Of course, the reality is that if elected I would be living the bulk of the time in Washington, D.C., as that is where the job is.”

Hirono argued that “what matters more than where the member of Congress lives is that the representative is attentive to the people of the district, responsive to their needs.”

She was keeping to the same line in a recent statement to AP: ”As many know, my 86-year-old mother lives with my husband and me. Uprooting her from familiar surroundings to a new home would be too disruptive for our family.”

Hirono can be fairly criticized for choosing not to live among the constituents she represents, but it wouldn’t be fair to accuse her of breaking a campaign promise.

It’s already hold-your-nose time in the Hawai‘i’s U.S. Senate race

August 5, 2011

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a couple of bizarre statements this week in Hawai‘i’s much anticipated 2012 U.S. Senate race, which so far has U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case competing on the Democratic side for a likely match against former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

In one missive, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil scolded Case for publicizing his campaign poll that purported to show him leading Lingle while Hirono trails the Republican.

“I don’t believe Mr. Case is being honest with this poll,” Cecil said. “It exaggerates support for him and for Lingle. It also contradicts polling we have done in this race that shows Hirono leading Lingle by 19 points.”

Who knows if Case’s poll was right or not, but it was done by an established pollster in Hawai‘i and the sample was taken months apart from the DSCC survey.

In any event, using polling data to underline your message is a standard campaign tactic, and since when does the national party get involved in an intramural squabble this early in the game?

It makes you wonder how the statement came to be issued. Did Hirono go crying to the DSCC for protection? Was it U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a longtime Case antagonist, keeping his promise to remain neutral by having a surrogate do the dirty work?

Establishment Democrats don’t seem to get it that they shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of carping.

The more Hirono seems to need the protection of “the boys,” the weaker she appears. The more the party establishment acts afraid of Case, the more moderates in the party and independent voters like him.

Equally nonsensical was a separate statement by the DSCC’s Matt Canter attacking Lingle after she dipped her toe further into the race.

“Hyper-partisan Linda Lingle is trying to hide her long record as a partisan bomb thrower in order to go to Washington and rubber stamp the extreme Republican agenda that would end Medicare and give tax breaks to oil companies,” Canter said.

Over-the-top rhetoric may sound good in Washington’s overcharged political environment, but it just doesn’t play in Hawai‘i. This was proven beyond any doubt in last year’s race in the 1st Congressional District, when similar ultra-nasty and factually dubious attacks by national Republicans against Colleen Hanabusa helped her more than hurt her.

Lingle has an eight-year record as governor that’s fair game for criticism, but trying to portray her as a bomb-throwing GOP extremist won’t resonate with most Hawai‘i voters who know better.

She has a long-established record as a moderate within her party and has been derided as a RINO — Republican in name only — by conservative advocates of the extreme-right agenda locally and nationally.

Hardly a bomb-thrower, many of her failures as governor could be traced to an excess of caution.

The more the national parties involve themselves in our 2012 Senate race, the more Hawai‘i voters will hold their noses — and last year’s CD1 race showed that’s not a good thing for the side emitting the most odor.

A peek at Lingle’s Senate strategy

August 1, 2011

Former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle is still coy on whether she’ll run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Akaka next year, but in a speech last week she gave clues to the strategy she’ll follow if she takes the plunge.

According to a report by Derrick DePledge in the Star-Advertiser, she’s aligning herself with a group of former governors from both parties who have been a moderating force in the Senate.

“Governors bring a particularly different approach in the United States Senate than those people who have come just from the legislative side,” Lingle, who is considering a Senate campaign, told a luncheon sponsored by the conservative Grassroot Institute of Hawaii at the Japanese Cultural Center.

“They are less ideological. They are more practical. They are more agenda driven. They are able to put forth something they’d like to achieve and then move to do it because as governor you have to. You can’t hide behind a lot of other people.”

In other words, she’ll argue she can give Hawai‘i a voice in the Republican caucus that seems on the ascent in Congress, while at the same time working to moderate the strident conservatism of the GOP caucus that alienates many voters in this strongly Democratic state.

It’s similar to the strategy she followed in 2002 to become Hawai‘i’s first Republican governor in 40 years, de-fanging her Republicanism enough to successfully compete for moderate Democrats and independents in defeating then-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, now a congresswoman who is running for the Senate.

The other Democrat who has announced for the Senate is former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, another veteran of the 2002 governor’s race who will argue that he’s better positioned than Hirono to hold the moderate Democrats and independents against Lingle.

Of course, much has changed since 2002; Lingle served eight controversial years as governor while Hirono has served quietly in Congress and avoided controversy. Case is still fighting the demons from his ill-timed run against Akaka in 2006.

Lingle has been enough of an ideological chameleon that she can portray herself anywhere on the spectrum she wants.

She campaigned for conservatives such as former president George W. Bush and the 2008 ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but has avoided embracing either the tea party agenda or the social agenda of the religious right.

On local issues, she’s also hard to pin down. She supported the Akaka bill hated by conservatives, but opposed the latest version that contains amendments proposed by the Obama administration. She let the excise tax for O‘ahu rail become law, but held up the project with a lengthy review of the environmental impact statement. She vetoed civil unions, but was careful not to join conservatives in demonizing gay couples.

She’s shown a talent in previous campaigns for framing the issues around her strengths, and Democrats would make a mistake to take her lightly because of early polls showing her far behind.

A U.S. Senate race for the ages

July 26, 2011

Somebody asked why I didn’t mention Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz yesterday when I ran down the list of possible candidates for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

Schatz has been included in the early speculation and he hasn’t said no, but a candidacy looks highly unlikely with initial polls showing that it would be an uphill battle for him.

The lieutenant governor wouldn’t have to resign to run for a federal office, but a weak showing in the Democratic primary would severely damage his personal political capital and could also be read as a repudiation of the Abercrombie administration.

Schatz has set himself up nicely to try to climb the political ladder to governor, and he’s not a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of guy who would risk it to enter a crowded Senate race as an underdog.

In one regard — age — Schatz would make sense as Hawai‘i’s next senator.

It takes time to build seniority in the Senate and Schatz, who turns 40 next year, would be about the same age as Daniel Inouye was when he was first elected to the Senate and started amassing the seniority that has served Hawai‘i so well.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, considered by some to be the Democratic frontrunner, would be 65 when inaugurated — about the same age as Akaka was when he was first appointed to the Senate. Some 20 years later with his age a concern at 86, Akaka still only has enough seniority to chair a relatively minor committee.

Of the other potential Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa would be 61 next year, former Rep. Ed Case 60 and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann 58. The likely Republican candidate, former Gov. Linda Lingle would be 59.

Schatz could serve two terms as lieutenant governor and two terms as governor and still run for the Senate at a younger age than any of the others are now, which says tons about the graying of Hawai‘i’s political leadership.

Hanabusa looking like a House candidate

July 25, 2011

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s new fundraising missive seems a pretty clear sign that she’ll defend her House seat next year rather than jump into the cowded race for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

An e-mail soliciting funds for her 2012 campaign didn’t exactly specify what office Hanabusa is seeking and she’s said she won’t make a formal decision until August, but the tone was clearly House-oriented.

She accused Speaker John Boehner and the Republican House majority of endangering Social Security, cutting health care, subsidizing big oil and threatening to shut down the government.

“Just imagine what Republicans will try if they control Congress in 2012,” she said. “I need your help to prevent that from happening.”

Hanabusa’s fellow U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case have entered the Senate Democratic primary and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is also looking at the primary in which the winner will likely face former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

Hanabusa let Hirono beat her to the punch, and the conventional wisdom is that two liberal women would split votes and throw the advantage to the moderate Case. If Hannemann turns the race four-way, it could become a crap shoot.

Hanabusa’s safe course would be to keep the House seat that took three tries to win and wait to run for the Senate when 86-year-old Sen. Daniel Inouye retires.

But it’s the winner of the Akaka seat who will ultimately succeed Inouye as the state’s senior senator, and the deciding issue could come down to which candidate voters see as best qualified to to pick up the heavy lifting Inouye has long provided in bringing home the bacon for Hawai‘i.

It would be ironic if Hanabusa ends up the odd candidate out, as she has the most proven record of the group as a legislative heavy-lifter.

In her 12 years in the state Senate, she held every major leadership position and was the first woman to serve as Senate president. She knows how to work the levers of legislative power.

Case influenced major legislation in the state House and rose to majority leader, but the leadership role didn’t suit him and he stepped down after only two years to operate as a dissident.

Hirono was never considered a major player during her years in the Legislature, and none of the three has served in Congress long enough to leave a significant mark.

For Hannemann and Lingle, the only legislative experience was at the county council level, where both were viewed as more interested in priming their runs for mayor than doing legislative grunt work.

Hanabusa can now vote for herself

June 13, 2011

To finish off a story we’ve been following, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced she’ll move into the 1st Congressional District she represents by renting a Kakaako apartment until she can sell her Ko Olina home and buy in town.

The new residence that she’ll use the one week a month she’s in Hawai‘i enables her to become a registered voter of the 1st District, and as far as I’m concerned, that satisfies her campaign promise to move into the district if she was elected over Charles Djou.

Hanabusa could have waited to see if Ko Olina ends up in the 1st District after reapportionment as some have speculated, but it would have been read as a broken promise that she didn’t need hanging over her head — especially if she jumps into the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Making the move gives her bragging rights over fellow U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, a possible rival in the Senate race and a resident of the 1st District who never bothered to move into the 2nd District she represents.

If the Ko Olina home doesn’t sell — it’s listed at $1.25 million — Hanabusa can always move back if her circumstances change next year, but likely she needs to downsize her Hawai‘i housing to raise proceeds to help pay for an additional residence in Washington.


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