Sen. Dan Inouye says he's confident Hawaii is in line for significant federal money for Honolulu's rail project, though former Gov. Ben Cayetano's entry into the Honolulu mayor’s race could be a game-changer.
The senator addressed rail, elections and many other topics in his first extended interviews in recent months. He also predicts a return to earmarks, getting federal funds for local projects and causes.
Inouye’s take on the status of Honolulu rail and the city's mayoral election is this, with rail critic and governor Cayetano in the race:
"In a sense it pleases me because we'll have a full discussion,” Inoye said, “and this matter deserves a full discussion."
Meanwhile he says he'll rally congressional colleagues to keep the $250 million President Obama put in his proposed budget for Honolulu rail.
"Here's an opportunity that doesn't come around every other year, believe me," Inouye said.
Cayetano responded, "The president himself has had trouble getting his bills through, and they can make up their minds whether getting that money is going to be a walk in the park."
Inouye says he's certain votes won't be split by the other prominent contenders in the mayoral election-- incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle and the former acting mayor, Kirk Caldwell.
“There's time,” Inouye said, referring to the fall elections. “I'm certain between now and that moment things will happen.”
As for other federal spending, Inouye said he predicts earmarks will be reinstated.
"I'm willing to go through 3 years of moratorium, if only to demonstrate to my colleagues that it's wrong," Inouye said.
The senator also reaffirmed his support for Rep. Mazie Hirono over Ed Case in the Democratic primary for Senate to replace Sen. Dan Akaka, whose seat Case sought before in 2006.
"When I am hoodwinked, I'm not too happy about it," Inouye said, adding that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will be focusing their money to help Hirono even in the primary period.
“The campaign committee asked me a question which I answered correctly and honestly. They wanted to know of the two which one has the edge?” Inouye said of the DSCC. “And I said I believe Ms. Hirono has… As a result they want to be helpful and not just sit back and let the odds take over.”
Ed Case said: “The voters of Hawaii do not want the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or anyone else from DC to make their decision for them. If the DSCC wants to help, it can urge Mazie to do statewide joint appearances with me to assist the voters and to ensure that our party does field the strongest candidate against Linda in November.”
Hirono said, "I'm grateful for Senator Inouye's support. I’m humbled by all the support for our campaign as the momentum continues to build because people know what's at stake in this election."
Inouye said in the 2nd Congressional District race he won't take sides between Democrats Tulsi Gabbard and Mufi Hannemann, calling them both friends.
He also alluded to strong military growth and spending for Hawaii.
“I cannot discuss in detail because I am privy to certain levels of information,” Inouye said, “but I can tell you this much: Pearl Harbor shipyard will be just as busy as it has been if not more busy.”
This was the senator's first return to the islands since last fall's APEC event. He says he's asked for every penny possible in federal reimbursement for security-related expenses for the international meeting. His office says a request was submitted for more than $7 million.