Former Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii is the first official candidate in what is expected to be a flood of candidates for the 2012 election to succeed retiring Sen. Daniel K. Akaka.
The former Democratic congressman, who is coming off two straight unsuccessful campaigns, announced his candidacy Sunday in a video posted online.
"I know I can serve Hawaii and our country well in the U.S. Senate, know we can mount a solid statewide campaign [and] know we have a good chance of prevailing," Mr. Case said.
With no clear frontrunner among the Democrats jockeying to replace Mr. Akaka, Mr. Case is likely to find himself in a crowded field - especially since President Obama's home state traditionally rewards Democrats with long careers in Washington.
But with a couple of strong possible candidates on the Republican side - former Gov. Linda Lingle and former Rep. Charles Djou have talked about running - party officials and political observers alike think Republicans could compete for the seat that Mr. Akaka has held since 1990.
Mrs. Lingle is a popular two-term governor, and Mr. Djou won a special election in 2010, becoming only the second Republican to represent Hawaii in the U.S. House since the state joined the Union in 1959.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee said Monday that it expects a scramble on the Democratic side.
"Ed Case is simply the first of many candidates in what we expect will be a divisive primary," said Brian Walsh, communications director for the NRSC. "It speaks volumes of the challenges national Democrats face in 2012 that they are being forced to play defense in President Obama's home state of Hawaii, while Republicans continue to view this race as a promising pickup opportunity."
Mr. Case, a former state lawmaker, served in the U.S. House from 2002 to 2006, when he gave up the seat for an unsuccessful primary challenge to Mr. Akaka.
Four years later, he came in third in the special election to replace Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who left the House to run a successful gubernatorial campaign.
He also lost a statewide race in 2002 in the Democratic Party's gubernatorial primary.
But on his website, he cites internal polling that shows him topping Mrs. Lingle, who won her second term in 2006 with almost 63 percent of the vote. Mrs. Lingle has said she will announce whether she will seek the seat by this summer.
Mr. Case, meanwhile, says it's time to start the 2012 campaign.
"Im not one for a long exploratory process," he said in a letter on his website to supporters. "I retained very good overall name recognition and favorability, prevailed in the Democratic primary matchups ... and did best among the Democrats in a general election against presumed Republican nominee Linda Lingle."
Other up-and-coming Democrats who have been mentioned as possible candidates include first-term Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, former Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, Rep. Mazie K. Hirono, Mr. Abercrombie and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
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