(KHNL) - For the first time, the two leading Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate appeared on the same stage together.
Sen. Dan Akaka and Rep. Ed Case both appeared at a candidates forum at the Dole Cannery sponsored by the Hawaii Publishers Associaiton.
Case said it's time for Hawaii to change the makeup of its delegation in the U.S. Senate.
"We should start now to direct this transition to bring in the next U.S. Senator while Sen. Inouye can still serve," Case said. "So that senator can build up ability, seniority and experience and relationships."
Akaka served seven terms in the U.S. House before going to the Senate and said he's still ready to do the job.
"It's not just a matter of waiting your turn," Akaka said. "It's a matter of gaining valuable experience and knowledge and insight."
Case called Akaka ineffective, pointing to the senator's unsuccessful push for federal recognition for Native Hawaiians.
"Whether one agreed or disagreed with the Akaka bill, it was clearly a failure of leadership on the floor of the United States Senate," Case said.
When it comes to Native Hawaiian issues, Akaka said he's fought the good fight.
"To right a wrong is never easy," Akaka said. "It's never been the most popular thing to do, but it has always been the right thing to do."
Case said he appeals to mainstream voters.
"I am ranked as a moderate, I am moderate," Case said. "I'm not far left or far left. I reject the politics of extremism."
Akaka admits to a more liberal philosophy.
"Who will be the alternate voice, that persistent conscience," Akaka said. "Will it be a Republican or even individuals who claim to be Democrats but vote to the contrary?"
The two members of Congress agreed to disagree on the war in Iraq. Akaka wants to stay in office so he can keep pushing the president to bring the troops home.
"To remind this administration that to stay the course is no strategy at all," Akaka said.
Case called Akaka's position overly simplistic.
"You can't just say okay we're going to get out of Iraq on October 17, 2006 and everything's going to be okay, that's not how it works," Case said. "You have to relate it to conditions on the ground."