Age Isn't an Issue for Hawaii Voters

Hawaii voters demonstrated last week that they don’t think advanced age is a deterrent to serving in the U.S. Senate. In the final primary of ’06, Democrats renominated 82-year-old Sen. Daniel Akaka with a comfortable 55% of the vote. Akaka, who has served in the House and then the Senate for 30 unbroken years, beat back a well-funded challenge from 54-year-old Rep. Ed Case, cousin of AOL tycoon Steve Case. Akaka (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 8%) and Case (lifetime ACU rating: 22%) agreed on almost every issue, and their contest was a “youth vs. age” battle.

Akaka is not Hawaii’s only 82-year-old senator. The Aloha State’s senior senator is fellow Democrat Daniel K. Inouye, who came to the House shortly after Hawaii became a state in 1959 and has served in the Senate since 1962. Born on Sept. 7, 1924, Inouye is four days older than Akaka.

Republicans had a strong candidate in former Vietnam POW Jerry Coffee. But Coffee announced recently he was abandoning his candidacy for health reasons. The GOP state committee will select a substitute nominee against Akaka.

Ten Democrats vied for nomination in the Honolulu-based 2nd District that Case has held for four years. Topping the primary field was former Lt. Gov. Mazie K. Hirono, who in ’02 became the first Democrat to lose the governorship of Hawaii in 40 years. (She lost to Republican Linda Lingle, who is running for re-election this year. ).

Along with name recognition, Hirono benefited from strong financial backing from the rabidly pro-abortion EMILY’s List. The decidedly leftist Hirono also called for establishing a U.S. Department of Peace.

Republicans had a rare contested primary in the 2nd District. State Sen. Bob Hogue, a former TV sportscaster, apparently won the GOP nod by about 200 votes. Hogue edged out more moderate former state legislator Quentin Kawananakoa, a descendant of Hawaiian royalty.

The 2nd District gave John Kerry 56% of the vote in ’04 and has never sent a Republican to the House since Hawaii became a state. But the National Republican Congressional Committee has signaled it will make a strong effort on behalf of Hogue.

It’s Their Business

Although there are groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Club for Growth that definitely represent the free-market point of view in political races, Ed Pinto believed that there was no political action committee that was an exclusive voice for small-business owners like him.

So almost single-handedly, the University of Indiana graduate and Sarasota, Fla., owner of Courtesy Settlement Services has launched a new political action committee called “Trust in Small Business.”

In its first election cycle, Pinto’s PAC is receiving a very warm reception. With minimal overhead costs, “Trust in Small Business” has raised more than $250,000 and deployed its resources to 12 hard-fought races for the House and Senate. Among those benefiting from the PAC’s commercials are Republican Senators Jim Talent (Mo.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.), and GOP House candidates Rick O’Donnell (Colo.) and John Gard (Wis.).

Pinto has raised money “the old-fashioned way:” eschewing costly direct mail packages and events, he has called 89 of his fellow entrepreneurs and personally asked for money for “Trust.” He added that “$10,000 can be quite a powerful independent expenditure. It can buy one solid week of cable television.” His group differs from the Club for Growth, Pinto explained, in that “we didn’t do much in primaries.”

Over lunch during a recent trip to Washington, Pinto told me how “big business is overrepresented and small business—us guys—are underrepresented in Congress. This shows up in votes such as failure to eliminate the death tax outright or even to consider cutting the Alternative Minimum Tax, both of which are the scourge of small business, which creates two-thirds of all new jobs and is 50% of GDP [Gross Domestic Product].”

Pinto added that when polls show small businessmen among the most trusted of professions in America, with one survey showing the small businessman “with 92% trust from the American public.”

The Trust PAC founder went on to note that his group was beginning to plan social events for couples and come up with “things other than writing a check” for supporters to help small business-minded candidates. But, he noted, “when you first write a check for a candidate, you’re going to have personal involvement.”

Pinto’s decision to launch a new political action committee comes at a time when increased federal rules and regulations severely discourage people from such activity. As Coalitions for America head Paul Weyrich once recalled to me: “It’s not like it was in the 1970s and ’80s, when we had big PACs and conservatives could actually influence candidates to get out of races and not split up our base.”

Pinto agrees and hopes that having more small businessmen in Congress will lead to the upending of the McCain-Feingold bill and similar campaign-spending regulations he considers “handcuffs on free speech.”

(Trust in Small Business, 531 South Washington Dr., Sarasota, Fla. 34236; 240-423-2848;

Kelo’s a Killer

After Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin led a five-candidate field in the initial Republican primary for the Oklahoma’s 5th District U.S. House seat, most expected she would go on to win the run-off over the runner-up, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. But one issue may have turned a sure win into a landslide for Fallin: eminent domain.

While both Republicans were considered strong conservatives and differed on few issues, they did disagree sharply on the 2005 Supreme Court decision City of New London v. Kelo, which upheld the power of municipalities to seize private property for economic development. At the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June of this year, Cornett was one of 85 mayors signing a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow local governments to maintain flexibility to use eminent domain to assemble property for affordable housing and for other purposes that serve the general public. Referring to the bill passed by the House that would prohibit local use of eminent domain for economic development, Cornett said: “We think this goes too far and we’ve been working to influence the Senate bill to retain some flexibility for local governments to do economic development.”

Fallin hit this hard, and strongly endorsed Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R.-Okla.) Private Property Protection Act of 2006, which would confront Kelo and strengthen private property.

“I was going to stay neutral in the primary, but when I realized the differences between the candidates on this issue, I came out swinging for Mary,” Inhofe told me. Fallin beat Cornett with 64% of the vote and is a cinch to win the district Rep. Ernest Istook is leaving to run for governor.

My Mistakes

Between my coverage of the White House and regular election-year travels, I have slipped on a few things. With faithful readers bringing them to my attention, let me point out that in the “Whalen vs. Braley” feature in “Races of the Week” (August 13), I referred to Democratic U.S. House candidate Bill Braley as a past member of the administration of Gov. Tom Vilsack. The Braley campaign pointed out that he was a volunteer on a task force appointed by the governor. Although this could be a case of word quibbling, I note the correction.

Sharp-eyed Rick Shafton wrote me that in the June 12 primary wrap-up, I once referred to Democratic Rep.-elect Albio Sires as “Spires” and in a September 11 “Race of the Week” I referred to the late Rep. (1958-94) Neal Smith (D.-Iowa) as “Neil Young.” I stand corrected.