Former Congressman Ed Case, the Democratic candidate running for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional district, expects to fulfill Congress’ role as a check and balance on the executive branch if he’s elected and Democrats retake control of the House.
But Case, 66, does not believe that a Democratic-controlled House should spend inordinate time holding investigative hearings on President Donald Trump’s administration.
“I do believe this administration does need checks and balances, clearly,” Case said. “But there’s a difference between that and whether your motivation is simply at every step to discredit the administration just because you want to make it look as bad as possible, just because you’re trying to prevent it from actually working on solutions.”
Case’s opponent in November’s general election, Cam Cavasso, 68, said he believes his clout as a Republican would give him much greater influence with the Trump administration if Democrats retake the House.
“President Trump will talk to Cam Cavasso as he would talk to no one else,” Cavasso said. “Cam Cavasso has the ability to talk for Hawaii because Trump will be controlling all of the Democrats. Having a Republican congressman will be of invaluable support and advantage to Hawaii. … I will have the ear of the president. I will have the ear of the speaker of the House, and I will have the ear of senators.”
If Democrats retake the House, Cavasso said he will work hard against any attempts to impeach Trump.
“Yeah, the radical left wing of the Democratic Party is calling for impeachment,” Cavasso said. “It won’t happen. I will go there to make sure we don’t face the crisis of an impeachment battle. It would be an exercise in futility.”
Both Case and Cavasso are well known to the earlier generation of Hawaii voters.
Case recently resigned as senior vice president and chief legal officer for Outrigger Hotels Hawaii, a move he said he was planning even before deciding to re-enter politics.
He previously served on the Manoa Neighborhood Board (1985-1989), two terms in the state House (1994-2002), and was elected to Congress (2002-2007).
Case also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002 but most notably upset Democratic Party leaders when he pursued the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Daniel Akaka in 2006 and lost.
More recently, after five years at Outrigger, Case was preparing to leave the company to look for a new challenge, such as working in the nonprofit world.
Instead, Case’s late June entry into the Democratic primary upended the congressional race that already included high-profile names such as Lt. Gov. Doug Chin, state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, state Rep. Kaniela Ing and Republican-turned- Democratic state Rep. Beth Fukumoto.
One motivation for getting back into politics, Case said, is that voters are “increasingly concerned and even disgusted” by the state of Washington politics.
“I felt that I needed to contribute another chapter of public service to Hawaii and to the country,” Case said.
He calls himself “a moderate mainstream Democrat” who wants to represent a wide spectrum of voters.
“I’m moderate on fiscal economics and foreign policy and liberal on social issues,” Case said. “Hawaii is a Democratic state on balance. But there’s a very, very broad range of thinking inside voters who vote Democrat.”
If elected, Case said he expects to find like-minded members of Congress in search of compromise who are willing to reach across the aisle.
“Too many people embrace the current way of thinking that it’s a mortal sin to even talk to a member of the opposing party,” Case said. “I don’t think there’s another way forward but to change the dynamic, the incessant battling inside Congress.”
If Republicans continue to control Congress, Case said his previous time working under Republican administrations shows he can still be effective.
“I worked very successfully to free up federal funding for Hawaii, to target Hawaii’s needs on a wide range of subjects such as education, Hawaiian affairs, right down the list,” Case said. “There’s a whole zone where you can be successful if you know what you’re doing and if you’re up to a bipartisan approach.”
Cavasso works as a financial adviser helping families and small businesses and continues to oversee his family’s farm operations in Waimanalo, which are primarily run by his sons.
His first taste of politics came in 1969 when he was elected student body president at Kailua High School.
From 1984 to 1991 Cavasso served as a Republican in the state House; he helped lead the 1996 campaign for a Constitutional Convention, unsuccessfully ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor and twice lost races for U.S. Senate to the late Daniel K. Inouye and once more to current U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.
“In every one of the elections I’ve been in, win or lose, I believe I accomplished much,” Cavasso said. “But I have the sense of confidence that I’m going to win this race.”
Cavasso said he is ashamed and embarrassed by the attitudes of Hawaii’s congressional delegation toward the Trump administration, especially the sentiments expressed by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono during the Senate’s confirmation hearings over U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Now is the time,” Cavasso said. “Hawaii is ready for change. Hawaii is ready to embrace what I stand for and ask for balance in our congressional delegation. … I’m saddened by their attacks on the administration. I will work to find common ground (among Republican leaders) to communicate with them.”