Ed and Mufi’s Not-So-Excellent Election

August 17, 2012, 2:32 PM HST · Updated August 22, 12:51 PM
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By Nate Gaddis

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Mufi Hanneman (photo by Wendy Osher), left, and Ed Case (photo courtesy of Roll Call).

Girl power!

Just kidding. While militant feminism wasn’t the wind blowing Mazie Hirono or Tulsi Gabbard’s sails to victory on August 11th, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize that Dan Inouye may soon find himself the sole male legislator representing Hawaii at our nation’s capital.

For a state that began its official history with the forced ousting of a female monarch, we’re in the process of drawing a full circle of sorts, this time voluntarily.

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But symbolic appreciation aside, how did these ladies pull off beating two veteran politicians by a more than 16% margin?

Mufi Hannemann: Outspent, Outmaneuvered

Beside out-fundraising Hannemann by over $100,000 dollars in the four months leading up to August, Tulsi Gabbard also enjoyed a windfall of support from political action committees (PACs).

Federal Elections Commission (FEC) records indicate that Gabbard enjoyed over $580,000 dollars of support from groups like Votevets.org and the Sierra Club, while Hannemann eked out just over $18,000 from “independent expenditures” as the FEC refers to them.

Gabbard’s pivot to the left on issues like abortion and gay marriage may have hurt Hannemann. Courtesy photo.

In addition to outspending her opponent, Gabbard managed to maneuver to the left of Hannemann’s social conservatism. Despite prior views that were anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion, Gabbard’s metamorphosis into a socially liberal, progressive candidate was a dramatic one.

An endorsement of Gabbard by the women’s advocacy group Emily’s List helped to cement her progressive image, leaving Hannemann looking like an old-timey misogynist by comparison.

Ed Case: Underfunded, Out of Line

Case pulled in just $98,600 in contributions for the period of April through June, compared to Hirono’s $941,000. Although he enjoyed over $250,000 dollars in support from outside funding groups (in comparison to Hirono’s approximately $38,000 dollars), Case still came up drastically short of Hirono’s fundraising efforts, to the extent that Hirono felt comfortable enough to set aside funds for the general election.

Running against Senator Akaka may have been Ed Case’s undoing. Courtesy file photo.

But money aside, it appears that Case’s image may still be scarred by the greatest Hawaiian electoral sin of his career.

He dared to defy a Dan.

Hawaii’s Democratic roots run deep, and are rigidly hierarchical. “Waiting your turn in line” while working your way up the party ladder is a trait viewed favorably. When Case jumped the ropes by trying to force Daniel Akaka into early retirement (at the tender age of 82), many of the party faithful recoiled.

Six years later, it appears they haven’t forgiven him. A Honolulu Star Advertiser poll taken less than three weeks before the August 11th primary found Hirono leading Case among traditional Democrats by a margin of 63% to 30%.

Unfinished Business

Before Case and Hannemann can sail off into the sunset, they’ve got serious political matters to tend to.

If Case is intent on repairing his reputation in the Democratic Party, it’s time he turned his sights on former governor Linda Lingle. The Republican candidate for US Senate had raised more than $4.2 million as of July, significantly more than the $3.4 million Mazie Hirono had managed. With the support of the US Chamber of Commerce and no major primary opponent to worry about, Lingle is sitting on a generous campaign war chest heading into November.

Hannemann for his part, has another former governor to tangle with. Ben Cayetano came out of the August 11th primary as the lead candidate for Honolulu mayor, and is fully intent on stopping the advance of the over $5 billion mass transit system Hannemann worked to secure during his tenure. If Hannemann cares about bringing rail to Oahu, he’ll have to throw his full weight behind Cayetano’s challenger, Kirk Caldwell.

Before Ed and Mufi can enjoy an excellent electoral holiday, they must first face the ghost of governors past.

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