WASHINGTON — State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim lobbed a doozy at Ed Case during a live debate Monday in the race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.
During the portion of the Hawaii News Now debate when candidates were allowed to ask each other questions, Kim turned to Case and pressed him on his congressional voting record. She said Case, who represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District from 2002 to 2006, had missed 48 percent of his votes.
“According to your congressional record, you were absent and missed 48 percent of the votes. How can you effectively represent the people of Hawaii when you’re absent and you miss votes?” she asked the former congressman.
It was a stunning assertion. But Kim’s figures, according to congressional records, were misleading.
The attack drew swift reaction from Case, who’s considered a leading contender along with Kim in the upcoming Democratic primary.
“I’m sorry what did you say?” Case said. “That is absolutely incorrect. I did not miss 48 percent. Donna, go check your facts right now.”
“I did,” she said. “I always do my homework. People know that I do that.”
On this assignment she would have received an “F,” at least for her initial assertion.
According to GovTrack.us, an independent website that follows federal legislation and lawmakers, Case missed 148 of 2,435 roll call votes during his time in Congress. That accounts for 6.1 percent, which the site said is still “much worse than the median of 2.9% among the lifetime records of representatives serving in Dec 2006.”
During the debate, Case pointed out how wrong Kim was with her 48 percent claim, saying that he only recalled missing 3 to 5 percent of the more than 2,300 votes he was scheduled to take while in office.
“Now I’ll tell you, traveling back and forth between Hawaii and D.C., that’s tough stuff,” Case said. “And my commitment was staying in touch with my community. Sometimes I just didn’t quite get back by the vote.”
He added that he missed several votes when he was late coming back from Iraq after meeting with U.S. troops. He said he wouldn’t trade those missed votes for anything.
Kim tried to walk back her comments by clarifying that Case missed about 6 percent of his votes over the course of his career.
She then said the 48 percent was referring to the votes he missed in 2006 when he ran against then-U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary.
“Oh, is that another question? You want to go there?” Case said, rising to his feet.
Kim’s second stab at Case’s voting record was yet another inaccurate representation that she failed to support with any evidence or documentation. She did repeat, however, that she had done her “homework.”
Congressional voting records show that Case missed a lot of votes in the lead up to the September 2006 primary. According to GovTrack, Case missed 35 percent of his votes between July and September. That’s still 13 percent lower than what Kim claimed.
Kim told Civil Beat on Tuesday that the 48 percent figure she used in the debate specifically refers to the period of September to December 2006. She said during that time, he missed 57 of 117 votes, which is 48.7 percent.
She apologized for the confusion over the numbers, but reiterated that she did not just make them up.
It’s not uncommon for Hawaii lawmakers to miss votes during an election season, particularly if they’re in a tight race.
In 2014, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa challenged U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary. Both candidates’ voting records suffered as they missed a ton of votes while campaigning for their political future.
GovTrack data shows that Schatz, who normally doesn’t miss many votes, was absent for 57 percent of his votes between July and September. Hanabusa also saw a spike in absenteeism, missing about 74 percent of her votes in the House.
In both cases, the election hurt their overall attendance and, according to GovTrack, compared unfavorably to their colleagues.
Civil Beat journalist Nathan Eagle contributed reporting to this story.
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