by Leland Kim
(KHNL) - U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) defeated Republican challenger Windward state Rep. Cynthia Thielen. Akaka leads 61.8 percent to 34.4 percent, according to the election board's second printout with 267 of 353 precincts reporting. Thielen conceded defeat just after 10 PM Tuesday night.
Akaka won his third full six-year term. His first victory in 1990 fulfilled the final four years of U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga's term after his untimely death.
In September's primary race, Akaka defeated challenger Ed Case 54 percent to 46 percent. Thielen was appointed to go against Akaka by the Hawaii Republican Party, after primary winner Jerry Coffee withdrew from the race due to health issues.
While Akaka agreed to a debate with Case, he has refused invitations to debate Thielen. Instead, he has focused his efforts on campaigning events and media exposure.
Age was one of the issues in the primary campaign. Case had said Hawaii needs to elect a new generation of leaders. Akaka is 82-years-old.
But Thielen, a moderate Republican, is 73-years-old. She and Akaka share similar views on some of the major campaign issues. Akaka opposes the Iraq war. Thielen said she would have supported the war initially, but without major changes in the White House's strategy in Iraq, she would likely call for troop withdrawal.
Akaka was born in Honolulu and is the second U.S. senator of native Hawaiian ancestry. He served in World War II in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Akaka was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, representing Hawaii's second congressional district. He won re-election six more times.
In 1990, Akaka was appointed by Governor John Waihee to the U.S. Senate to serve temporarily after the death of Senator Spark Matsunaga, who died in April. In November of that year, he was elected to fulfill the remaining four years of Matsunaga's term. Akaka was re-elected in 1994 and 2000.
Thielen was also born in Honolulu and has served as state representative since 1990. She graduated from the University of Hawaii with a law degree. Thielen has served as minority floor leader from 1992-97. Since 1999, she has served as assistant minority floor leader.
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