The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: Dan Akaka Became the First Native Hawaiian Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1990
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Ahead of the July candidate filing deadline, Dan Boylan reflects on the pivotal U.S. Senate race between Democrat Dan Akaka and Republican Pat Saiki, following the death of Spark Matsunaga. The stakes are high—it’s only the second time there’s been an open seat in Hawai‘i’s 31 years as a state. While Saiki has bigwig backers President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush, Akaka is likely to rally with Sen. Dan Inouye and other powerful Democrats. HONOLULU asks, so who should we vote for? “I offer the commentary of a Washington reporter,” Boylan says. “‘Hawai‘i’s voters are in an enviable position. They have two highly qualified candidates … and both of whom are deeply committed to the state. It’s hard to say which one would make a better United States senator.’ I agree. Sorry.”
In the November 1990 special election, Akaka wins with 54% of the vote, becoming the first Native Hawaiian elected to the U.S. Senate. He serves in that role until he retires in 2012 at 88. Saiki goes on to serve as administrator of the Small Business Administration under Bush, runs for governor (ultimately losing to Ben Cayetano) and returns to teaching.
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