Potomac Fever Epidemic In Hawaii

A family wedding has preoccupied me the past few weeks, so I’ve fallen behind in keeping my valued readers current on the political news of the day.

Let’s start with Mufi Hannemann’s announcement that he will be a candidate for the 2nd District (rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands) congressional seat being vacated by Mazie Hirono.

Hannemann surprised no one. He’s suffered from a virulent case of Potomac fever since his year in Washington as a White House fellow on the vice presidential staff of George H.W. Bush. In 1986, in his first bid for public office, Hannemann ran and won the Democratic nomination in the 1st District (urban Honolulu) only to lose to Republican Pat Saiki.

Four years later, Hannemann lost the Democratic primary in the 2nd District to Patsy Mink. His career in Honolulu politics began with his election to the City Council in 1994.

Following the thumping Hannemann took in last year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, the only question was whether he would run for the United States House or Senate this year. Washington breeds malarial fevers; they never totally subside.

Doubt the doctor’s diagnosis?

Consider the two other announced candidates for the Democrats’ 2nd District congressional nomination. Both suffer at least a lowgrade Potomac fever.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs attorney Esther Kia’aina may be in the worse shape. She first drank Potomac water in the summer of 1986 as an intern in U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye’s office. Following law school at

Washington’s Georgetown University, Kia’aina did nine years on the staff of U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, then four as an aide to 1st District Rep. Ed Case, followed by a turn with Guam Rep. Robert Underwood.

Whew! Kia’aina didn’t sip those waters she swam in them.

Which brings us to Tulsi Gabbard. Elected to the City Council just last fall, Gabbard became a candidate for Congress less than eight months into her first four-year term.

Guess why.

That’s right, three years on Akaka’s staff in Washington.

Of this feverish three, Hannemann has to be considered the leader going in. He enjoys name recognition, access to campaign funds, experience, and support from both business and labor. Will his 2010 loss weaken him? Maybe.

Which brings us to the topic of recycling, and I’m not talking about green waste, glass, paper or aluminum.

I’m talking political candidates.

In the past 10 years, Ed Case has run for governor (2002, unsuccessfully), Congress (2003, successfully), U.S. Senate (2006, unsuccessfully), and Congress (2010, unsuccessfully). And now, in 2012, he’s back.

So is Mazie Hirono. In 2002, then Lt. Gov. Hirono ran briefly for mayor of Honolulu before pulling out to defeat Case in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. In the general election, however, Linda Lingle defeated Hirono. In 2006, Hirono ran successfully for congressional seat Case gave up to run for the Senate. She’s back, too, running for the same Senate seat Case wants.

Add Hannemann’s electoral wanderings to the list and little wonder you hear people saying, “Same old faces.” Of course they are, just more recent pictures for the campaign signs.

Blame it on the old folks: the two 87-year-old Dans occupying the Senate seats and the 72-year-old Neil Abercrombie in just his eighth month of his first term in the governorship. When three elder statesmen insist on holding three of the state’s five top elected offices for a total of 109 years and counting, every other ambitious candidate has to scamper for whatever comes available.

So we see them again and again and again, some of them looking downright feverish.