Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Ed Case shared a stage on Tuesday, the first time they’ve appeared together since Case decided to give up his recently won seat in the U.S. House to challenge Akaka in the Senate race. The two spoke as part of a luncheon meeting of the Hawaii Publishers Association, but did not directly debate. Case stressed the need for transition planning not-so-subtly referring to Akaka’s advancing age called Akaka a member of the far left, and said Akaka’s record is lacking both achievement and leadership. Pointing out the traditional Hawaiian reverence for kupuna, Akaka said wisdom, experience, and seniority count. He hinted that Case is only claiming to be a Democrat but will just “rubber stamp” the Bush administration’s policies, and said he serves as an “alternative voice” of conscience in Washington.
Akaka joked that since he and fellow Sen. Daniel Inouye were the same age, Case could go after “the other Dan” instead. Case said that between Inouye and Akaka, Inouye carries 95 percent of Hawaii’s influence in the Senate.
The candidates highlighted the issues on which they differ. On the Iraq war, Akaka wants to set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops, whereas Case calls such a plan a naive and simplistic mistake. Case emphasized his opposition to the Jones Act, which regulates the ocean shipping and cruise industry, saying it supports monopolies and survives only through special interests that back Akaka’s campaign. While Case pointed to the stalled Akaka Bill as evidence of Akaka’s ineffectiveness, Akaka said he didn’t see it as a failure and said it was the victim of party politics. As for transition planning, Akaka said it is always on his mind, and floated Rep. Neil Abercrombie as a possible successor in the Senate.
Case took aim at Hawaii’s Democrat-dominated political culture, calling it “fundamentally broken.” He said the reaction to his campaign from the party establishment illlustrates this, and that things need to change.