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Akaka Wins Senate Primary in Hawaii

September 24, 2006

HONOLULU (AP) _ Liberal incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka beat back a challenge from upstart Rep. Ed Case in Hawaii’s Democratic primary. Case conceded the race just before midnight Saturday, when returns showed he trailed 55 percent to 45 percent with all but one precinct reporting. He trailed in every county, including those in his own 2nd District.

Whom Akaka faces in the general election remained a mystery after former Vietnam prisoner of war Jerry Coffee, who pulled out of the race because of health reasons, won the GOP nomination. Republicans have three days to name a replacement candidate.

Akaka had 128,927 votes to Case’s 106,968.

``I want to thank Hawaii for supporting me all these years,″ he said Saturday night. ``It has been a tough campaign for me.″

Akaka, 82, has served in Congress for 30 years and drew on his experience to boost his candidacy.

Case, 53, who did not win on any of Hawaii’s islands, had argued that the state needed a younger, more moderate senator.

``Losing is never easy,″ he said in his concession speech. ``It doesn’t mean the ideas we put forward in this campaign are not valid.″

Case faced the difficult challenge of unseating Akaka, who campaigned on his consistent votes against the Iraq war and his congressional seniority as reasons voters should back him.

While the Senate race attracted the most interest, voters also picked candidates for Hawaii’s two congressional districts, governor, and state and local positions.

In the governor’s race, former state Sen. Randy Iwase won the Democratic nomination over Hawaiian activist William Aila. Iwase will take on Gov. Linda Lingle, who secured the GOP nomination and is expected to easily win a second term.

The race for Case’s congressional seat developed into a free-for-all, with a dozen experienced candidates seeking their parties’ nominations.

Former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono emerged as the apparent winner in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary. With all but one precinct reporting, Hirono received 24,385 votes in the 10-way race, compared to 23,586 for state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, who was in second place.

Hirono will face either State Sen. Bob Hogue or Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa in November. Hogue was leading Kawananakoa 8,393 to 8,194 in the Republican primary in one of the closest races in the state.

In the 1st District, Rep. Neil Abercrombie easily beat immigration attorney Alexandra Kaan for the Democratic nomination. Abercrombie had 82,137 votes compared to Kaan’s 21,656.

Abercrombie will face Richard Hough, a major in the Army Reserve, who defeated real estate agent Mark Terry, 5,649 votes to 4,177.

Democratic-leaning Hawaii has never unseated an incumbent member of Congress since it became a state in 1959, but Case had centered his campaign around the idea that voters need to boot Akaka in favor of a more youthful representative who can start to build up seniority.

Some voters leaving the polls Saturday who supported Akaka said they valued his seniority and consistent record.

``Experience does matter. I didn’t like the dirty comparisons″ that Case made in TV ads, said Ted Awaya of Honolulu.

Others backing Case said they wanted a new face in the Senate.

``I think we need a change. We’ve been in a stalemate for too many years and we needed someone new,″ Nancy Clines said.

Akaka, who drew endorsements from leading Senate Democrats, held more than a 2-to-1 advantage in fundraising, collecting more than $2 million to Case’s $817,000 by early this month.

Hawaii has had the lowest voter turnout in the nation, with even less participation in primaries. Turnout appeared to have improved over 2004′s 40 percent, with more than 42 percent of the state’s 655,741 registered voters casting ballots, including record early and absentee voting.

Results from the voting were slow, with tallying extending well into Sunday morning. Elections officials waited 4 1/2 hours after polls closed for the last precinct to report in before releasing any of the day’s vote.

Hawaii uses both hand ballots and voting machines, and results from outlying islands are transmitted by computer modem into the election system. Results are issued only in hand-printed reports that are also posted on a state Web site.

Elections officials took taxies to pick up ballot boxes on the main island of Oahu, which was the slowest to report returns.