The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has contacted Hawaii Sens. Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka to inform them the committee might support former U.S. Rep. Ed Case in Hawaii's special congressional election, the political Web site Politico reported Tuesday.
Inouye and Akaka are backing the other leading Democrat in the race for Oahu's first congressional district, State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa. Case unsuccessfully challenged Akaka in 2006.
D.C.C.C. Chairman Chris Van Hollen said Tuesday he would not rule out making an endorsement in the contest, Politico reported.
"Our biggest focus is trying to expose [Honolulu City Councilman Charles] Djou's Republican record," Van Hollen told Politico. "I'm not saying we won't [endorse], but our focus is on exposing the Republican's record."
The D.C.C.C. began running its first television ad Tuesday night in Honolulu, accusing Djou of supporting tax breaks for large corporations.
The organization is spending $34,000 running the ad, Politico reported, in a sign of the high stakes in a winner-take-all election which is giving Republicans a potential shot at winning in this Democratic stronghold.
Determined to stop a potentially embarrassing Republican victory in the state where President Barack Obama was born, the D.C.C.C. is providing under-the-radar organizational support to Case against fellow Democrat Hanabusa, including help from D.C.C.C. Western Regional Political Director Adam Sullivan, according to Politico.
Sources familiar with the Hawaii effort told Politico the D.C.C.C. has already assembled teams of top party operatives -- including polling and advertising experts as well as a media strategist -- to oversee what are expected to be big and expensive independent expenditure operations.
Those operations can include ad campaigns against Republican Djou, like the one that began Tuesday, or direct mail and other broadcast advertising supportive of either or both the leading Democrats, Case and Hanabusa, as long as they are not coordinated with the Case or Hanabusa campaigns and therefore "independent."
Monday, Inouye told KITV4 he is not concerned about media reports that U.S. House Democrats are considering throwing their support behind Case.
?They?re not working for case or for Hanabusa. They?re working against Djou,? Inouye said.
CQ-Roll Call said national Democrats see some weaknesses in Hanabusa?s candidacy, which includes her move to pull a television ad after opponents called it deceptive.
Political analysts say national Democrats want to be sure a Democrat wins the race and may be siding with the candidate who is ahead in the polls. Inouye says Case no longer holds that distinction.
?When the polls came out last December, Colleen was behind. No question about that. About 20 points behind. Today, they?re even. That tells me something,? Inouye said.
Inouye and Sen. Dan Akaka are supporting Hanabusa. ?I think she is a better candidate. Her word is good, I can trust her,? Inouye said.
Case ran unsuccessfully against Akaka for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Inouye told KITV4 that he talked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by phone, to ensure the committee is not leaning toward supporting Case. ?I said, you better look at the facts and she said she will. So I?m going to talk to her when I get back to Washington,? Inouye promised.
Hanabusa said she has not spoken to D.C.C.C. since the end of last year. ?They said they were going to remain neutral in the race because there were two Democrats,? Hanabusa said. ?They have not contacted me subsequent to that meeting.?
Hanabusa said the D.C.C.C. has not said anything about supporting Case and has never asked her to drop out of the race to avoid a split vote among Democrats, which could benefit Djou.
?Whatever they may decide to do, they may decide to do. But I will always have the knowledge that the two senior senators believe that I am the future for the state,? Hanabusa said.
Sources tell KITV4 the committee plans to make a decision about who it will support in the next couple of weeks.
The special election ballots are being mailed out on April 30 and the results will be announced on May 22. The first congressional district covers urban Honolulu, from Hawaii Kai to Mililani.
Ed Case and his campaign have not returned KITV4?s calls on this story.
KITV4 Reporter Jodi Leong contributed to this report.