Dan Akaka: Conversation with the Candidates

Sen. Dan Akaka
Sen. Dan Akaka

By Darren Pai

(KHNL) - She's in the first grade, but that didn't stop Keala Teho from deciding for herself which candidate to support.

The Iolani School student followed news reports on TV, read the newspapers and made up her mind, she wants Dan Akaka to return to the U.S. Senate.

When Akaka asked why she said: "Because you have good character."

It's the kind of impression Akaka hopes to make with supporters of all ages.

Meeting people face to face, after 30 years in Congress, Akaka still considers it to be the essence of his job.

"To shake their hands, or give them a hug and make them feel warmly in our friendship," Akaka said. "You know because I believe that's the hawaiian style."

"Hopefully they would get a good reading on me as a person who cares and loves Hawaii and wants to do all I can for Hawaii in the future."

With each handshake, Akaka reviews his record in Congress. He admits he rarely tried to attract media coverage of his work. That's a product, he said, of his upbringing.

"It goes back to my mom," Akaka said. "When I was little she would tell me don't be a show horse, be a work horse."

Akaka moved from the u-s house to the senate in 1990. His biggest adjustment: dealing with the ever-present Washington press corps.

"They were standing in the hallways, around the corners, asking you about every vote that's coming up or issues," Akaka said.

He added : "I tried to be sure that before I left my office, whatever was on the floor, I could speak on it."

Recently celebrating his 82nd birthday, Akaka knows his age has been an issue in this campaign.

"Some people feel old when they're 40," Akaka said. "But for me, I'm so fortunate. My health is good. I feel energetic."

For now,there are more people to meet. Each new face, Akaka said, is a reminder of why he entered public service.

"I have so many things in heart and my mind I want to do for Hawaii and I want to continue to do it for as long as I can," Akaka said.