Senate Exit By Hawaii's Akaka May Open Door For GOP Ex-Gov Lingle

Ex-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, left, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2005 when she was governor and Abercrombie was a congressman. i

Ex-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, left, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2005 when she was governor and Abercrombie was a congressman. RONEN ZILBERMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

itoggle caption RONEN ZILBERMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ex-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, left, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2005 when she was governor and Abercrombie was a congressman.

Ex-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, left, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2005 when she was governor and Abercrombie was a congressman.

RONEN ZILBERMAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sen. Daniel Akaka's announcement Wednesday that he's not running for re-election (he's 86) shouldn't spell trouble for Democrats' chances for holding the seat in 2012 in what is shaping up to be a very challenging general election.

Hawaii, after all, is a fairly solid Democratic state. Not surprisingly, Hawaii native, President Obama, gets his highest state-approval ratings there.

So Democrats shouldn't have the concerns about holding on to that seat that they have in, say, Virginia.

Still, as the Cook Report's Linda Duffy noted in a National Journal piece, there is a potential cloud on the horizon for Hawaiian Democrats. She is Linda Lingle, the relatively popular former Republican governor of the Aloha State.

Duffy writes:

No race in Hawaii is ever easy for Republicans, and 2012, when favorite son President Obama will be at the top of the ballot, won't be any different. At the same time, the prospect that Lingle may run prevents us from completely writing off the GOP's chances here. She is well known and is a proven fundraiser. Until the candidate fields on both sides become clear, the race will stay in the "Solid Democratic" column, but a Lingle candidacy would force a move to a more competitive rating.

Meanwhile, the Honolulu Advertiser points out the reasons why all the Democrats viewed as possible Akaka replacements won't necessarily catch a big wave to victory:

(Former Congressman Ed) Case, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann also have been mentioned as possible Democratic successors. But all of these Democrats have practical or political challenges. Case finished a deflating third in a special election for Congress last year. Hanabusa was just elected to Congress in November. Hirono lost to Lingle in the governor's race in 2002. Schatz was just elected lieutenant governor in November. And Hannemann suffered a staggering loss to Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for governor in September.

Duffy mentions one out-of-the-box possibility who was recently cited by Hawaii's other octogenarian U.S. Senate member, Sen. Daniel Inouye, as a potential Democratic Akaka successor. Tammy Duckworth, a Veterans Administration deputy assistant secretary, could run for the seat, he said.

At first blush, this seems odd since she ran for the House in 2006 from Illinois and lost in what was a Democratic year. Also, she doesn't

But the disabled Iraq War vet spent part of her youth and attended college in Hawaii. So she can make some claim to a Hawaii connection, Inouye said. But it seems pretty tenuous.

Also, to really have any chance, she would essentially have to quit the Obama Administration now and move to Hawaii and start her campaign.

That seems like a tall order, especially when there are already better known Democrats who are actually Hawaiians interested in running.

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