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Veteran U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, an 82-year-old Democrat from Hawaii, defeated upstart challenger and fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the state’s primary election.
"Losing is never easy," Case said. "I have lost a few times and I lost tonight," Case told supporters after conceding the race just before midnight local time.
Although this is an election year for Hawaii’s governor, the race for the U.S. Senate seat had captivated voters ever since Case, 53, surprised Democrats in January with an announcement that he would run.
Case said he felt the party needed to make a transition toward a new generation of Hawaii leadership in the U.S. Senate. Akaka has been in Congress for 30 years, including 16 in the Senate.
The state’s other senator, Daniel Inouye, also is 82, and has been in the Senate since 1962.
Akaka’s campaign stressed his experience and his many contacts in Washington.
"I’m really humbled to be here with you," said Akaka, bedecked with numerous flower leis and joined by supporters and Hawaii’s congressional delegation. "There is nothing but gratitude in my heart for all of you."
Akaka, the first senator of Native Hawaiian descent and the only Chinese American in the Senate, was leading 54 percent to 45 percent with 228 of 353 precincts reporting.
It is unclear who Akaka will face in the November 7 general election for the six-year term. The leading Republican challenger, Jerry Coffee, withdrew from the race because of emergency heart surgery, too late to remove his name from the ballot. If Coffee wins the primary the governor will appoint a Republican candidate.
Case has served four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002.
The two Democrats differed in their views on the Iraq war. Akaka voted against giving President George W. Bush the authorization to go to war while Case said he likely would have voted for giving the president the authority.
The race to fill Case’s Democratic seat in the 2nd Congressional District drew 12 candidates. Mazie Hirono, a former lieutenant governor, held a 3,100 vote lead over her nearest challenger, former state legislator Colleen Hanabusa, with only 23 percent of the votes counted.
An even narrower margin existed on the Republican side of the House race. Bob Hogue held a 399-vote lead over Quentin Kuhio Kawananakoa.
Gov. Linda Lingle held a commanding lead over her Republican challengers, with more than 20,000 votes to fewer than 200 for her nearest competitor. Lingle, the 53-year-old former mayor of Maui County, was elected in 2002 as the first Republican governor in 40 years.
Randy Iwase held an equally strong lead among Democrats vying to challenge Lingle though he will likely be branded a long-shot in the general election.
© Reuters 2006