By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Toward the end of his Hawaiian blessing at U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono’s East Hawaii campaign headquarters, the Rev. Danny Akaka Jr. prayed that Hirono would go on to “lanakila” — victory — in Washington, D.C.
The low-key blessing, by the son of the retiring U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka Sr., D-Hawaii, to the congresswoman whom the Akaka family hopes will succeed him, was attended by more than a hundred people Sunday afternoon in Hilo.
Hirono is concluding her third term as the Democratic congresswoman for Hawaii’s 2nd District, which encompasses all the Neighbor Islands and part of rural Oahu. She’s locked in a tight primary contest with fellow Democrat Ed Case, who left office in 2006 to challenge the elder Akaka.
Case grew up in Keaukaha as the son of a prominent Hilo attorney; he is regarded as the more moderate candidate in the race.
Akaka’s decision not to seek re-election this year means that Case or Hirono will likely face former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, in November. The race has nationwide implications as embattled Democrats fight to keep control of the Senate.
The Hirono campaign’s new East Hawaii digs are located at a former auto repair shop off Kekuanaoa Street, behind Hilo Shopping Center, and just a few hundred feet southeast of the Lingle campaign headquarters.
Hirono’s supporters posed for photographs with her and her husband Leighton Kim Oshima and enjoyed free food and ice shave. A no-name band of Arnold Tarleton, Alex Paglinawan and Steven Kaheikii played while the white-shirted supporters of the candidate mingled.
During the blessing, Akaka, his wife and daughter gathered with Hirono and Oshima at the door to the office. The kahu said his prayers, and Hirono helped to untie the maile lei. They then blessed the four corners of the building. Afterward, Hirono’s supporters told the crowd why they weanted to see her in the Senate.
“Her votes in Congress have aligned with Sen. Akaka’s,” Stapleton said. “I’m going to miss Sen. Akaka in the Senate so much … It is important that we keep the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.”
Hirono began her remarks by reflecting on the role of her mother when she was younger and the decision to flee an abusive father in Japan for a better life in Hawaii.
“The challenges that our families are facing all across our country and in Hawaii are challenges I faced in my life,” she said. “And this is why I know that I share the values of the people of Hawaii.”
She voiced her support for protecting Medicare and Social Security, for education and jobs. Five minutes into her speech, she made a brief remark about her opponent in the Aug. 11 election.
“I have a primary election. And there are differences between me and Ed Case. I won’t go into those differences, but after the primary, which we will get through, which we will win with the help of all of you, we have a general election.”
Hirono ripped into Lingle as a super PAC-funded right-wing politician who is only pretending to be a moderate Republican.
“While we may be outspent, we will not be outworked,” Hirono said, to applause.
“This is my ‘go for broke’ race, everybody,” she said, invoking the rallying cry of Sen. Daniel Inouye’s 442nd Infantry Regiment in World War II. “And it is not my race. It is our race,” she said.
“This is going to take all hands on deck. This is going to be one tough campaign. And what’s at stake is going to be literally the control of the U.S. Senate, and whether or not they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Hirono said.
Later, over lunch, Hirono elaborated on the differences between her and Case. They included Case’s vote to authorize the use of force in the Iraq War and his support to raise the retirement age for Social Security, the extension of the Bush tax cuts and opposition to expanded prescription drug coverage for seniors.
When informed about the Hawaii County Council’s recent resolution in support of a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision in the Supreme Court, Hirono said she would support an amendment, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is preventing it from coming to a vote.
Email Peter Sur at email@example.com.