Transcript of Malia Zimmermann News Behind the News Interview with Ed Case
EC--“I’m certainly still interested in serving … Hawaii in the US Senate. I feel fine about doing the job, about mounting a good solid campaign and about my prospects of winning….” ...
“We still have a tremendous transition issue in the US Congress, especially in the Senate. That hasn’t gone away at all.” ...
MZ—You said a lot of things back then that are kind of coming true today. You were saying, we have two US Senators that are 86 or whatever they were at the time, 82, and of course that’s Sen Akaka and Sen Inouye. And you were questioning whether or not Hawaii needed to move into a transition phase where you got some younger generations in there so you weren’t just left with a whole big stoppage point with nobody with any kind of experience or credit….
MZ--Seniority, that’s right. And you were criticized for that of course. Heavily criticized at how dare you challenge somebody without them dying first or without them stepping down on their own. In other states we see challenges and challenges. And whether or not people are victorious they have a challenger. In Hawaii that is not always acceptable. Did you feel that?
EC—Oh of course. I’ve always said that the political culture of Hawaii discouraged competition, that it attempted in too many instances to control—outside of an election process—who the elected representatives of the people would be. That’s been going on for decades in Hawaii—on a bipartisan basis by the way. I’ve felt for some time now that the lack of choice in the elections in both the General and the Primaries—so I’m not just talking about an R vs a D in the General. I’m talking about contested Democratic primaries and Republican Primaries. That has not happened enough in Hawaii and I think it should happen more.
I have every expectation that in the 2012 Senate race, at least on the Democratic side, we will have a contested Democratic Primary so people will have a good solid choice—and I think that’s good for society. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
MZ – How much control do you think Senator Inouye has over the Party. Does he run the Party completely and everybody does what he says or do you think he has influence but he’s not in complete control?
EC—Well he obviously has influence. He has tremendous influence. He’s our senior senator. He is the most senior member of the US Senate. He is the Chair of the Appropriations Committee. He has been a central figure in Hawaii politics especially on the Democratic side for a long time now. So there’s no denying his influence.
But I think the observation that he still “controls things” is not accurate any more. And I think what you have to look at is what’s happened over the last 5 or 10 years in Hawaii. Obviously he didn’t want Linda Lingle to be Governor—she was for two terms. And in this last election I don’t think there’s any question that he supported Mayor Hannemann over Neil Abercrombie. Neil Abercrombie stunningly defeated Mufi Hannemann. He did not support Peter Carlisle for Mayor--his candidate did not succeed.
Inside the Democratic Party, much the same picture. There was a time when Senator Inouye—or more accurately the people around Senator Inouye—on his behalf, or at least statedly on his behalf, would be able to exert a much greater level of what happened inside of the Democratic Party. That arose because Senator Inouye was funding the Democratic Party and therefore had the power of the purse.
MZ—You mean through appropriations, contracts?
EC--No. Because he would facilitate contributions to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party really became overly dependent on his funding for its survival.
MZ—Similar thing with Linda Lingle, I think.
EC—Probably so, sure.
So the Democratic Party kind of fell out of touch with its grassroots support and I think Dante Carpenter and many of the members of the Democratic Party over the last couple of years have done a very good job of trying to broaden that base of financial support.
But you know you take a look at the Clinton-Obama race in 2008 where there was a knock down drag out fight inside the Democratic Party between the Obama forces who Senator Inouye opposed and the Clinton forces who Senator Inouye supported. It is very clear that the Clinton forces did not prevail at the convention. And…you take for example the Democratic Central Committee and you run down the list of the members of the Central Committee and ask yourselves who are the loyalists of any political figure including Senator Inouye. You will find it is a very unlikely statement to make.
So influence yes, but control, no….
…I don’t think there is any doubt that Senator Inouye would like to be able to designate who the next US Senator is and has been assiduously working to effect that outcome. I don’t think he is going to be able to do that. I think certainly he is going to be able to influence it and I don’t know who his choice is. I would suspect strongly that former Mayor Hannemann was perhaps his choice but I don’t think that if he or the DSCC went out and did a current poll on who the frontrunners would be in that race—either within the Democratic Primary or against Governor Lingle who I have no doubt is going to be the Republican nominee--I don’t think Hannemann would be very far up there. So I think Senator Inouye is probably looking elsewhere….
…No question Mufi Hannemann had a major loss last year and I don’t think it was just the size of the loss but it was the why of the loss. I think it is a little tough to recover from that. But Mufi has been interested in serving in the Senate since he was 9 years old … and so for him to sit there and—perhaps a little differently than me, I don’t think he has another life. This was and is his life and I think it is going to be hard for him to pass it up.