By Ed Case
If the week after election day wasn’t enough of an emotional rollercoaster, the days since I withdrew my candidacy have been its equal.
I’ve received literally thousands of emails, phonecalls and letters and on-the-street comments, most a mixture of disappointment and understanding. I am so grateful for all of those, and will be doing my best to reply personally to each in the coming weeks.
With them came many questions and much advice on my race and future. Below is an interview I did Tuesday with KHON2 News which addresses much of that.
If there’s just one point I can highlight, it is to ask you to stay involved this election year with some other candidacy. Our Hawai‘i and country desperately need you, because in these challenging times only the full involvement of each of us will ensure a government that truly represents all.
I again so deeply appreciate your consideration and support. As always, I welcome your thoughts anytime and truly look forward to staying in touch.
Mahalo, and aloha,
Ed Case, U.S. Congressman (2002-2007)
KHON2 News Tuesday, June 1 Interview
Q: Just days ago you delivered the news of your withdrawal in a speech at the Democratic Party convention. How did it feel for you after you walked off the stage, having been embraced by your former competitor?
A: It was a difficult decision. I feel quite at peace with the decision and I feel at peace with the speech I gave, so it’s been a good few days.
Q: Will you be putting your name in the hat for any of the other big races this year?
A: I am not expecting to be a candidate in any other race in 2010. What happens after that will unfold in due time, and I really don’t know what is going to unfold.
Q: What kinds of suggestions have people made to you regarding running in 2010?
A: Every single possibility I’ve gotten something about in the last few days. So yes people have suggested that, and I appreciate that. It would be a far different story if nobody was suggesting I run for anything else, then I’d definitely take the hint and head for the hills. That hasn’t happened. I made my decision and I think it was the right decision. I just don’t see that 2010 is the year for me to be considering anything further.
Q: For 2012, then, do you think you’ll look at the statewide or federal level, or will we see your name on the ballot for a state house, senate or county council seat?
A: First of all I don’t know whether there’s a political career in my future. If there is one it would be a statewide race at either the state or the federal level. Whether that’s going to come about, I don’t know today.
That’s going to evolve over time. It’s difficult to predict. I have to make some of my own basic decisions about how I want to serve. What I definitely know now is there’s a time and place for every consideration and every decision. This is not the time and place to be thinking about this. Right now I need to go back to my other lives and take care of the things that I haven’t taken care of in the campaign.
I’m excited at what new opportunities might come my way, but what they might be I really don’t know. I know that there’s no question but that they are going to involve some kind of public service.
Q: So what do you do in the mean time?
A: I have a profession that I enjoy. I have a lot of college bills I have to pay. [Sunday] morning at 11 o’clock I had an excuse not to take on the honey-do list, and now I don’t have an excuse anymore. [Sunday] afternoon and [Monday] were spent on the first few items on that list. Maybe that’s an incentive to get back into a political race.
Q: The last time you made a decision of what to run for, you came to your supporters by email to help choose between governor and congress. Do you think when the time comes you’ll take that straw poll again?
A: In one way shape or form of course. I am so grateful for so many loyal supporters across the state and country at this point. These debates are ongoing across our entire country. I’d definitely like to stay in touch and I am going to stay in touch. If and as I consider anything further, of course I’m going to ask the folks that got me here. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to do that.
Q: Are there ways you envision staying politically active or influential without holding an office?
A: I don’t know the specifics yet, but public service and trying to make my community better have been at my core for thirty years. It’s going to be impossible for me to walk away, and I don’t want to walk away. But I want to find the right way to do it.
Elective office has been my passion for decades now, and like other passions, if you can’t do it, you need to put some distance between yourself and that. I feel the need to do that right now. How long that’s going to last I really don’t know.
There are obviously other races of key importance in Hawaii today and I certainly am considering whether to help others that I think can articulate what many if not most voters in Hawaii don’t feel is being articulated and voiced by really many of the candidates at all. There is a huge void out there of folks speaking for what many, many if not most of us feel we want in government. I can’t turn away from helping with that discussion.
I hope to comment on what I believe we need to do here in Hawaii and in the country. I can’t walk away from my beliefs and my experience. I don’t see a whole bunch of other people out there giving voice to the hopes and dreams and desires of many if not most of the Hawaii voters. I feel a tremendous responsibility for continuing to speak to those issues, because nobody else is. I feel very strongly.
It is possible to try to control life too tightly, and I’m a control freak, so I do try to control things and how they unfold. But sometimes you’ve just got to let it happen, so that’s what I’m doing right now.
Q: Your supporters and voters are likely hoping you’ll stay in the picture and prominently so. Will you?
A: It’s been a really emotional couple of days with the emails and calls, and people stopping me on the street, and that’s been deeply gratifying and deeply emotional for me, and I’m very, very thankful for that. I simply don’t know how this is going to unfold, and I’m not trying to direct it in any way shape or form. I think this is one of those times when you step back and let events take their own course.
Q: What did you want to accomplish with the move this weekend? Is it just the success for Sen. Hanabusa? Is it making peace with Sens. Akaka and Inouye in terms of the rift over the past several years?
A: It wasn’t anything more or less than what I said to the convention. I think this election has to be about values, and the values that Colleen and I do share are the values that are taken to Congress if she wins. And I think fundamentally our country is having as debate over values, and I cannot support the values that Charles (Djou) brings there. And so I felt that it was the right thing to do to defer to her and to allow her her chance to make her case and to hopefully project into Congress the values we both believe in.
Q: A lot is being made of — or hoped for — in terms of who might win over your voters, and that’s from both parties. The Democrats say it’s clear you’re telling your supporters to go with Hanabusa. The Republicans say a lot of your voters are independent and might not lean toward the Democrats given the choices left. What do you want to tell your voters?
A: Take a look and make your own decision. I mean from my perspective, I made my decision, I explained my reasons. But you know, the folks that voted for me are independents. They are moderates. They really don’t fit any particular peg, and to peg them into anything by Charles or Colleen would be a big mistake. And so I think that both of them have to take their case to the people that voted for me and earn their vote. I can’t tell people how they should think. I know how I think. But that’s their call.
Q: Do you see yourself campaigning for Hanabusa? Should people consider that you endorsed her?
A: I supported Colleen at the convention, and I do endorse her. Again, that’s one person. And I was very direct with the advice I gave to Colleen at the convention, and I hope she listens to it. She says she’s going to listen to it. She needs an adjustment in her approach to earn the number of voters that she needs to win and I think she acknowledges that and understands that and I hope she takes the advice to heart.
Q: What do you think she has to adjust?
A: She has to understand the deep disillusionment and frustration that many of us of any political party or no political party feel in the system of politics in Hawaii today and in our country. We don’t want power to be trumping principle and people. We don’t want division, we want unity. We don’t want extremism, we want consensus. We don’t want exclusion, we want inclusion. And those are the things that we all want desperately. As I told the convention, I support Colleen because we share values, but I needed to tell her and everybody there that many people today will vote for change over values if that’s what is necessary to accomplish change. That is the danger for Colleen. I think most people in Hawaii do in fact share our values. That doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for her. The election is about something different for them, and that’s what she has to capture.
Q: Have you heard from people on the mainland or even the White House again in terms of your decision?
A: I didn’t talk to anybody in advance of the decision. I didn’t ask for anything, and I don’t expect anything. You know, I’ve taken myself out of the race. Now it’s really about strengthening Colleen, from a national Democratic perspective. They have a clearer path to do that. And as Charles has said, he has a clearer path, too. So really they’ve moved on from that perspective.
I haven’t discussed it with anybody in D.C. I obviously have discussed it with folks across the country, because this is a national race and people are interested in how this race is coming out. I think in this race does reflect the divisions in the country and the way forward for the country. I think this is not a race to be ignored on the national scene. What is happening in this race is happening in many many, many congressional districts across the country.
I think what bothers me the most are the people that feel [there’s] nobody they can support now, that nobody in the race speaks for them. And that is a real weight, but I thought [withdrawing] was what needed to be done. Those are the people whose support has to be earned by the other candidates now in the race.
Q: Some people are asking, what did the powers-that-be including Senator Inouye do to get you to drop out? Was there a call? Was there a deal? Is there anything you get for stepping down?
A: No. I didn’t talk about this with Senator Inouye or any representative of him or any other elected official. I think it’s perhaps a comment on the political culture that needs to change that people reach the conclusion that somehow there was a deal made. There was no deal made, no discussion. I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do. I have no expectations whatsoever. I hope that it will facilitate a better government. That’s really all I hope.
Q: Even if the motive wasn’t for better treatment going forward, do you hope that will still be a trickle-down effect the next time you run for office? Do you hope that finally the 2006 Akaka conflict is put to rest?
A: I didn’t make this decision for that reason, and I really have no expectations on it. I have certainly had many, many, many calls, emails and people stopping me on the street who did not support me before Saturday who say that they’re going to support me now. That’s gratifying, but how it turns out, who knows really?
Q: You told us who you’d support for Congress. Have you thought about whom you’d vote for for governor?
A: I’ve certainly thought about the other races, but what I do and with whom and when, I’m going to take that in my own time. Those are obviously huge races, governor, mayor. There are some other litmus-test races where the issues that I care so deeply about are all-encompassing in those races. That would certainly be one place where I’d try to pitch in for what I believe in.
Q: In the past you supported Neil Abercrombie. Will that carry into the governor’s race?
A: I’ve been out of my own campaign 36 hours. These things are going to gel in my head over the next couple of weeks, I’m sure. I had no problem at all with Neil as my colleague in the U.S. Congress. We worked well together. Yes, we did support each other in our re-election campaigns in 2004. I think he’s a good, honest person with only the motives of Hawaii at the forefront.
Q: Anything you’d like to say about candidate Mufi Hannemann?
A: (Nonverbal no.)
Q: Anything else you’d like people at home to know?
A: I think the only thing I would say is that in a key year like this year, we really need everybody on deck. Probably the biggest problem with Hawaii today is that too few are making too important decisions for everybody, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
The more people that participate as candidates, as voters, as people out there helping candidates, the more our government is going to be representative of what we all want. But if people opt out because they’re disillusioned, they only cede the decisions to other people and that’s where we get in trouble. And that’s the one area where I feel the most uncomfortable about, that there are not enough people out there voicing what most of us want.
We need everybody to step forward, otherwise we’ll end up with a government that doesn’t represent us.
Q: Were the polls wrong?
A: The polls weren’t wrong. What the polls were showing was what was happening until quite late into the race. But it was the cumulative effect of attacks on me from both sides that really caused the polls to adjust because many of the people who were inclined to vote for me either voted for Charles or for Colleen because the negatives caught up with me, and we didn’t respond.
I don’t think there was anything in the polls that was surprising. I think people make up their minds, and polls are always just a snapshot in time. The snapshot when voting started was that Charles and I were tied and Colleen was well back. When the vote came in that had changed, and that was not an accident.
Q: Do you hope that the advertising takes on a different tone?
A: I certainly hope for it. I think it was extremely unfortunate in this race. But I am very pessimistic because negative advertising absolutely worked in my race, there’s no question about it. And anybody studying this race has to conclude that whatever people say about negative advertising, it works.
I think that unfortunately in both the congressional race and the governor’s race, we’ll probably see the worst negative advertising in our entire history, and I hope voters get fed up with it and vote accordingly, but today I’m a little pessimistic on that. We like to think we’re different here in Hawaii from the mainland in terms of our receptivity to negative advertising, but my election proved that’s not the case.
Q: Is it exacerbated by the weeks-long mail-vote process where every day was election day?
A: Yes, exactly. But that’s not going to change the basic concept of negative advertising. One of the reasons that we concluded that we needed to defer to colleen and get out in order to help the values that I believe in was that we were going to have one nasty primary campaign with Colleen.
There was no way that she was going to hold her fire or that I was going to hold my fire and the outcome of that was uncertain, but what it certainly would have resulted in was a far stronger Charles Djou going into the general.
Q: And it would have tapped out a lot of money by September. Was that part of the decision, all the money that would have had to go into a primary, then ramp up again for November?
A: We all spent a lot of money. Every candidate was tapped out by the end of this election. Every candidate faced the same basic challenge of fundraising into the regular cycle. But clearly from the public statements by the Djou camp they were very happy with my withdrawal and that should send Colleen a distinct message of what she has to do to adjust . Although the Democratic party viewed it as a good thing, and I’m happy I did it for that, Charles Djou also viewed it as a good thing. So we’ll see how it all shakes out.
Q: Anything else you want to address that I haven’t asked you?
A: Hang on [a] second. Audrey? How long is your list?
MRS. CASE: My list spans how many years?
ED CASE: Audrey told me this morning her honey-do list now spans 10 years, so there’s a lot on that list.
Q: So, send hammers, nails and paint instead of campaign donations?
A: Well, my yard is a little bit better than it was. You can’t let a yard go for an entire election, which is about as long as it went.
Case still has a grudge against Hannemann for supporting Akaka.
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