Who's next? Candidates mum for now on Akaka's successor

U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka
U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka
Dylan Nonaka
Dylan Nonaka
Dante Carpenter
Dante Carpenter
Dan Boylan
Dan Boylan

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The retirement of Sen. Daniel Akaka has rekindled speculation on who will succeed him.

And that list may be a long one.

Both political parties are gearing up for what promises to be a tough and grueling race. But many of the possible candidates were keeping the spotlight on the retiring senator, and keeping quiet, at least for now, about whether they'll run.

However, the fact that Akaka announced relatively early has given time for those who want to succeed him to think about their chances, and to raise the money needed to run.

The Hawaii GOP believes it has a good chance.

"With the way our country's going and the spending, we gotta give the people of Hawaii an option to vote for people who are fiscally responsible and put our country back on the right track," said Dylan Nonaka, executive director of the Hawaii Republican Party.

The biggest Republican name mentioned is that of former Gov. Linda Lingle, who didn't comment about running Wednesday. She did issue a statement praising the senator, saying, "Senator Akaka has served our state honorably for nearly 22 years and has been a strong representative of the Aloha Spirit to his colleagues in Washington, D.C."

Democrats are ready to defend the seat.

"Having made this decision certainly gives the opportunity for potential candidates, and variable candidates from the Democratic party ticket," said Dante Carpenter, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

So which party would have the advantage? Hawaii News Now Political Analyst Dan Boylan said the race will attract a lot of national attention.

"The money will come pouring in from the mainland because of the possibility, again, of embarrassing (President) Obama in an election year. That's on the Republican side," Boylan said.

"On the Democratic side, the list is, for Democrats, too long."

That list includes Congresswomen Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa. Under Hawaii election law, neither woman would have to resign from the House to run for the Senate.

Historically, every Hawaii senator, except for the first senator Hiram Fong, has risen to the chamber from the House.

Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell did throw his hat into the ring, but not for the Senate.

"Something I would look at is running for the United States House, should one of those women run for the United States Senate," Caldwell said.

The Democrat who challenged Akaka in 2006, former Congressman Ed Case, was among those who praised the senator for his service. But is he running?

"Well, I've been interested in serving Hawaii in the Senate for a long time," Case said, "but this is not the day for that decision. That will come pretty well in the next couple of months."

Related story: Sen. Akaka will not seek re-election in 2012

Related story: Statements on the retirement of Sen. Dan Akaka

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