By some quirk of fate, the Washington, D.C., memorial service for Dan Inouye is this Friday — the same day the Mayan calendar ends along with the rest of the planet.

We’ll take a chance and predict that the world will continue with business as usual come Saturday. Local services for Inouye are set for Sunday at Punchbowl.

But the death this week of Hawaii’s senior senator is being described by some as cataclysmic for the islands — e.g., in terms of federal funding and loss of Senate seniority.

As fate would have it, Inouye has left office just two weeks before Dan Akaka has his last day in the U.S. Senate.

Talk about losing seniority; between them, the Kanielas — the Dans — served nearly a century in Congress. Who would have thought they would leave the stage at the same time?

Ed Case did. Six years ago.

Case for Senate

Case, then serving as a U.S. representative in a job that he could probably have kept for life, shocked Hawaii Democrats when he announced in January of 2006 that he would challenge Akaka in the primary.

“Our Hawaii has been served ably and with great distinction by generations of U.S. senators, including Sen. Daniel Akaka,” Case said at the time. “Like all of our Hawaii, I have the deepest aloha for Sen. Akaka and truly honor his decades of selfless service.”

Then came Case’s main argument for his candidacy: “But we all know that we are in a time of transition in our Hawaii’s representation in Congress and especially in the Senate. This transition requires that we phase in the next generation to provide continuity in that service.”

It was a campaign message that did not go over well.

Inouye said Case’s decision “stunned” him and asked Case to withdraw from the race.

“I can assure you that the Senate Democrats are galvanized around Sen. Akaka’s re-election,” said Neil Abercrombie, at the time Hawaii’s other U.S. representative. “They love him, you have to understand that. Sen. Akaka’s support among his colleagues in Washington is universal.”

Case being Case, though, argued that he could perform the job of U.S. senator “better than anyone else.”

In August, a month before the primary, Case said, “If I start now, I have 25-plus good years in front of me and I can do far more in those 25 years than Sen. Akaka has done in 30 years in Congress.”

For his part, Akaka — 81 at the time, just like Inouye — decried “the increasingly cynical world that dismisses the elderly as frail and disposable and of no use to society except to be a burden.”

New leadership, he suggested, could come from Abercrombie, who was then 68: “What about Abercrombie? He is the transition and he can pick it up from there so transition comes with experience in other areas.”

In the only televised debate between the candidates, Case said it was time for Hawaii to change the makeup of its Senate delegation.

It was obvious Akaka’s handlers wanted to limit joint televised appearances, and for good reason, as Akaka’s speaking style is not a good fit with the medium of television. By many accounts, Case won the debate.

But, as with the Case-Mazie Hirono Senate race this year, even when Case bested Hirono in a series of debates, it didn’t matter; voters had already decided who they were more comfortable with.

“We should start now to direct this transition to bring in the next U.S. Senator while Sen. Inouye can still serve,” Case said. “So that senator can build up ability, seniority and experience and relationships.”

Case believed raising the question of transition was the responsible thing to do.

As one article put it shortly after Case declared his candidacy, “Ed Case had made up his mind by December that he could no longer wait for Democrats to talk gracefully about a transition Hawaii’s senators … both in their 80s, and the congressman felt the state could be in danger of losing its influence in Congress if one or both were to die in the next few years.”

As it turned out, one senator has died and the other will retire Jan. 3.

Three and Out?

We know how things turned out for Case in 2006: He lost to Akaka by 9 percentage points.

In 2010 Case finished third behind Republican Charles Djou and Democrat Colleen Hanabusa in the special election to replace Abercrombie, who resigned his congressional seat to run for governor.

This year, Case lost by 17 percentage points to Hirono in the primary contest to replace Akaka. Hirono, who trounced Republican Linda Lingle in the general election, will be sworn in Jan. 3.

Ironically, Case, now 60 years old, was elected to Congress in a special election in 2002 and another in 2003 to replace Patsy Mink, who died in office.

Though his name is among those mentioned as a potential replacement for Inouye — he is as qualified as Hirono and Hanabusa — it would be a hard sell.

For one, he would have to apply for the job. For another, the State Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawaii would have to select his name to submit along with two others to Abercrombie.

“Case daring to assume Inouye’s seat?!” some might protest. “Ed as senior senator over Mazie?! Another white guy in Washington?!”

The former congressman and Senate wannabe did not respond immediately to Civil Beat’s request for comment. But it’s a fair bet that he still has the Senate on his mind.

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