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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 10, 2010

Race for Congress has some real chops

By David Shapiro

With all the speculation on what the 1st Congressional District special election means for the Democrats and Republicans in the struggle for control of Congress, we lose sight of what the election means for Hawai'i voters, and I actually feel pretty good about that.

After the 2008 election in which contests for Congress, the Legislature and county councils were lightly contested more than 40 percent of lawmakers ran entirely unopposed I'm encouraged to see a congressional race with three credible candidates locked in spirited competition.

Whatever you think of the political views of Ed Case, Colleen Hanabusa and Charles Djou, you have to admit they've all paid their dues and are all qualified for the job by objective standards, with at least 10 years of legislative experience each in Congress, the Legislature or City Council.

Case served eight years in the Legislature and four in Congress; Hanabusa has served 12 years in the state Senate, including the last four as president; and Djou served two years in the Legislature and eight on the Honolulu City Council.

That stacks up well with the credentials first taken to Congress by some of the most notable representatives who preceded them.

Hawai'i's senior senator, Daniel K. Inouye served five years in the Legislature before being elected to Congress, and Sen. Daniel Akaka had no legislative experience. Patsy Mink and Spark Matsunaga each had eight years in the Legislature before going to Congress. Pat Saiki served 14 years in the Legislature and Neil Abercrombie had 12 years in the Legislature and two on the City Council.

Case, Hanabusa and Djou have distinctly different views, covering the spectrum from liberal to conservative, and all have shown solid knowledge of the issues in articulating their positions. In head-to-head forums, they've all been cool under pressure and quick on their feet.

With the intense local and national interest in the contest, the candidates have been fully vetted, the issues have received broad coverage in the media and anybody halfway paying attention has the information to cast an intelligent vote.

What's not to like about an informed electorate having real choices for a change?

It's something that will likely extend to the fall elections, with compelling issues to be debated, from education to civil unions to the economy, and hot competition shaping up for the governor, lieutenant governor, Honolulu mayor and key legislative races.

Who knows, with actual decisions to be made, voter turnout might surprise us on the high side instead of the low side for once.