Former Democratic Congressman Ed Case has joined the race for the U.S. House of Representatives, an 11th-hour move that could shake up the contest for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is competing to become Hawaii’s next governor.
Case filed nomination papers Tuesday, the deadline for running in the Aug. 11 primary.
Other Democrats running include Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, state Reps. Beth Fukumoto and Kaniela Ing, state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim and Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin. With no strong Republican contender running in a state dominated by Democrats, the election for the seat representing urban Oahu is expected to be determined in the August primary.
Case, 65, said he was motivated to run in part because of how “deeply dysfunctional” Washington has become, particularly with the recent presidential election.
“Certainly the election of President Trump has deepened and accelerated that divide, and I think that most Americans are sick of it and most Americans want reform,” he said.
Case said his prior experience working in Congress distinguished him from the other candidates, none of whom have served in federal office. “I think that the best thing I can say to the voters is that I have already done it,” he said.
Case’s late entrance into the race means that he doesn’t have the campaign cash of his competitors, but he said he didn’t see it as starting from scratch, given his experience in both politics and the private sector. He currently serves as senior vice president and chief legal officer for Outrigger Hotels Hawaii.
Case hasn’t served in political office for more than a decade, after losing a bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2006 — a competitive primary in which Case took 45 percent of the votes to Akaka’s 54 percent. Prior to that, Case served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2002 to 2007. He also served in the state House from 1994 to 2002.
Case lost a special election in 2010 to replace U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who had resigned to run for governor. He also lost to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in 2012 in the race to replace Akaka when he retired from the Senate.
The voters “may need to refresh themselves to who I am and what I have been doing since they saw me,” he said by phone as he sign-waved in East Oahu.
Longtime political columnist Dan Boylan said Case’s name recognition and ethnicity should help him.
“Five people in that race, and not one of them is a haole at the moment, not one,” said Boylan.
“I think he will draw Republicans and independents and moderates into that campaign,” he added.
The large number of undecided voters also marks an opportunity for Case to attract votes.
Former state Sen. Clayton Hee, who withdrew from the governor’s race Monday, also filed papers Tuesday to run for his former state Senate seat, which is currently held by state Sen. Gil Riviere — signaling the start of what is likely to be a competitive primary race between the two Democrats.
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