The Winners And Losers Of 2013

Herewith, “Mostly Politics'” first post-2012 winners and losers column – occasioned by last week’s news that Colleen Hanabusa has decided to run against Brian Schatz next year to fill the two years remaining of the late Daniel K. Inouye’s term in the United States Senate.

The biggest winners? The media folks who sell political advertising. None thought they could match the oodles spent last year on an open seat in the 2nd Congressional District, an open U.S. Senate seat, a fiercely contested mayoral race, and a rematch in the 1st District between Hanabusa and Republican Charles Djou. Add Pacific Resource Partnership and other political advertisers, and politics practically printed money for Hawaii’s various media outlets throughout 2012.

But as of last week, things are looking up for the bottom line. Election year 2014 offers an open 1st District seat, a gubernatorial contest and the aforementioned knockdown, drag-out between Schatz and Hanabusa. Money, that ever nutritious mother’s milk of American politics, will flow freely.

Speaking of the gubernatorial race, incumbent Gov. Neil Abercrombie won last week, as well. Hanabusa’s decision to take on Schatz means she will not challenge Abercrombie, over whom, in at least one recent poll, she held a decided advantage.

Abercrombie may well face a difficult general election, most likely a rematch against former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, but his numbers are rising, his peace with public worker unions has been bought, and his re-election chances look decidedly better than a year ago.

Still, give a “W” to the Republicans. A HanabusaSchatz U.S. Senate brawl in the August primary could weaken Democrats for the general. That weakness might well help Republicans in the 1st District, the only district Republicans have ever held, by Pat Saiki from 1987 to 1991, and by Djou for several months in 2010.

In appointing his lieutenant governor to the Senate last December, Abercrombie acknowledged Democratic vulnerability in the 1st District as one of his reasons for not choosing Hanabusa. The prospect of a Republican, however decent and patriotic, winning even one of the state’s four Washington offices seems too much for self-respecting Democrats to bear.

Then there are the losers. Voters will certainly lose one to noise – the din caused by the unrestrained media advertising, high on negativity and slickness, that has marked even Hawaii’s usually well-mannered election seasons.

They could also lose in the choices they’re offered. The two Democrats trying to run and spend their way into the last two years of Inouye’s Senate term will do their best to delineate their differences on the issues, but in fact there’s probably not a dime’s worth.

And even with an open 1st District, the faces could be worn and all-too-familiar: Ed Case and Mufi Hannemann for the Democrats, perhaps, Charles Djou for the Republicans, maybe Hawaii Kai resident Linda Lingle.

There will be others, of course. City Councilman Stanley Chang already has announced. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim has long talked of a congressional run; so too has Leeward state Sen. Will Espero. Councilman Ikaika Anderson, state Rep. Mark Takai and state Sen.

Brickwood Galuteria also have been mentioned.

Add a potential loser in the Republicans’ small-but-promising youth movement. There will be pressure on some of its most promising to run for higher office.

Lambs should not be sacrificed.