Akaka Retirement Triggers Political Free-For-All

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How crowded will the race be to replace Daniel Akaka in Washington?

When Ed Case ran against Akaka in 2006, no less than 10 viable candidates sought Case's 2nd Congressional District seat in the Democratic primary. They included the victor, Mazie Hirono, as well as Colleen Hanabusa, Brian Schatz, Gary Hooser and Nestor Garcia.

When Case ran in a special election in 2002 to fill the remainder of the late Patsy Mink's term, he bested 37 others, including Mink's widower, John. Barely a month later, in early 2003, Case prevailed in a field of 44 that included Hanabusa and Frank Fasi to keep the seat for two more years.

But the 2012 race to fill Akaka's seat, which had already begun before the 86-year-old senator announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election, will be an entirely different race, the likes of which Hawaii has not seen in decades.

The Democratic contenders will almost certainly include Case, and possibly Hirono, Hanabusa, Schatz and Mufi Hannemann.

On the Republican side, Linda Lingle has already said she's thinking about a run and Charles Djou may jump in, too.

The cream of Hawaii's political elite will be vying to join the world's "most exclusive club," as the U.S. Senate has been described. A national stage awaits, as does near-certain job security.

Ultimately, though, the election will come down to name recognition, track record, fundraising, powerful friends, campaign strengths and weaknesses — and luck. Civil Beat handicaps the 2012 race for the U.S. Senate.

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