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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Case out for now, but far from pau

By Lee Cataluna

These are strange days for the Hawai'i Democratic Party when the guy who says he's dropping out of the race steals the show.

There was almost gleeful anticipation that bulldogs Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann would spit fire in their convention speeches this past weekend, or at least show finger at each other in the parking lot, but the two mortal enemies vying to be their party's candidate for governor were barely in the same room together. The convention seemed to be ending on a tired "we all gotta work together" theme. Blah. But then came Ed Case with the bombshell that he's not running in September, giving the old guard's candidate a virtually free ride to the general election. Case brought down the house.

Just when you thought Old Ed had lost his mojo, he manages to bust out a jaw-dropper. And there's Colleen Hanabusa giving him a lei, beaming like he's her new kidney donor. And there's Dan Inouye welcoming him back into the fold. WOW! We haven't seen a moment like that since Moon, John and Jerome joined Iz onstage at the '96 Hōkūs.

Of course, Case could be dropping out for a number of reasons, not all of them altruistic.

It may be that he can't afford to lose again. Case didn't have much help with his campaign in the special election. He might be so far in debt that he can't afford to keep digging a hole. Maybe someone offered to help him with that problem if he promised to drop out.

It could that he has his eye on another office. Maybe Honolulu mayor. Maybe a seat in the Legislature. It wasn't too long ago that he was contemplating running for governor, though with his disappointing showing in the May 22 election results, he might not try something like that right now.

Or it may be that he knows Charles Djou isn't about to get bounced from D.C. very easily. Djou quickly established himself in Congress as one of only five house Republicans to vote to abolish "don't ask don't tell." He's clearly out to make a name for himself, and perhaps Case would rather Hanabusa take that loss in November than add another to his record.

That press conference in 2006 when Case announced his intention to run against Akaka was stunning. It was like watching someone playing with gunpowder, thinking, "This guy is either going to blow himself up or he's going to launch a spectacular rocket." That time, he blew himself up. This time, he's scrubbing the mission. But in doing so, he set the stage for something else. He still has the gunpowder of ambition, plus he made nice to Dan Inouye.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172.