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As more and more progressive voices speak out against using military force against Syria, President Obama’s decision to ask Congress to authorize a strike is creating political friction on the other side of the country -- in the Senate primary between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa.  Of course, the military has a huge presence in Hawaii, and the islands are home to thousands of servicemen and women.  Hawaii-based units suffered some of the most devastating losses during the Iraq war, and the pain and waste of that conflict is still felt among many residents.  

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Hawaii State Senator David Ige is formally kicking off his campaign for governor, with the Democratic Primary in less than a year's time.  If your response to that sentence was "Who?", don't be too worried -- that's a pretty understandable reaction.  

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Daniel Akaka, the first and only Native Hawaiian to serve in the United States Senate (and one of my personal heroes), did something last month that he doesn't usually do.

He endorsed Colleen Hanabusa for the United States Senate.

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At first glance, Brian Schatz seems like a pretty inoffensive choice to be Hawaii’s next Senator.  He’s young, he’s ambitious, and he’s unabashedly liberal.

Now, read this paragraph:

“I support traditional marriage.  I support traditional family values.  When family traditions and values are honored, society has fewer problems.  Crime is reduced.  Literacy rates are higher.  People are healthier.”

If you thought that was written by Palin, Santorum, or Bachmann, you would be mistaken.  This homophobic ditty was penned by a young Brian Schatz when he was running for the State House of Representatives.  Remember, this was the same candidate who once referred to himself as “the next Patsy Mink.”  [Now would be a good time to mention that he also once ran a company called “Hubris Online LLC.”]  Brian Schatz, who fancies himself the next progressive superstar in the Senate, was perfectly willing to blame all of society’s ills on gay marriage.  But he sounds a little more like Ted Cruz than Ted Kennedy.

An old Schatz campaign flyer
His complete flip-flop on campaign finance reform is even more concerning. When he was in the State House in 2005 (the last time he was an actual legislator), he declared that the current system of campaign finance “threatened the basic foundation of our democracy” and called for state campaigns to be “100% funded by the taxpayer.”  He also blasted candidates for taking out-of-state contributions in 2002, saying that “people in Hawaii should control Hawaii's destiny” and said again in 2005 that the only thing holding reform back was politicians being too comfortable with the status quo.  Now, after being in Washington for seven months, it seems like all he does is fundraise –and he doesn’t seem to care where his contributions come from.  Vast, vast sums are coming from out of state, mostly from other Senators and mainland environmental groups.  Schatz has received $52,500 from 16 different Mainland Senators' PACs.  He is beholden to mainland interests while his opponent, Colleen Hanabusa, was endorsed by Senators Akaka and Inouye -- the last two senators to represent Hawaii.  His latest press release – surrounded by kids with a big banner touting “2 million dollars raised!” came out a few weeks ago without a hint of irony.  For such an earnest advocate of campaign finance reform, it seems he only had one reaction to Citizens United: “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”
Smile, kids!
Finally, his scathing criticism of now-Senator Mazie Hirono in their 2002 Congressional Primary is actually a useful reminder that he hasn’t really done anything to earn his place in the Senate.
He said, "Just being around for a long time is not sufficient criterion for being a leader in the state of Hawaii. The question that voters should ask themselves is, given a position and given the authority to make a real difference, what was done?”  

Indeed, Mr. Schatz. Indeed.

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