By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
GARDENA — Gardena Buddhist Church’s Bon Odori, held over the weekend, featured dancers from temples throughout Southern California and beyond, but one group represented a candidate.
Wearing red happi coats with a distinctive “CH” logo, which had just been sent from Hawaii, they were relatives and supporters of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is running for the U.S. Senate in the Aug. 9 primary. They wanted to make their presence known at one of the area’s largest Obon dances.
Hanabusa is giving up her seat in the House of Representatives to challenge fellow Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz, former lieutenant governor, who was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Neil Abercrombie after the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye in December 2012.
Hanabusa, 63, and Schatz, 41, have held a series of lively debates over their qualifications. Hanabusa was Inouye’s chosen successor, while Schatz is endorsed by President Obama and other party leaders. A new Hawaii Poll of likely Democratic voters shows Hanabusa leading Schatz, 50 percent to 42 percent.
The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face off in the general election. The winner in November — widely expected to be the Democrat — will serve the remainder of Inouye’s term.
The Gardena group included Hanabusa’s aunt, Nancy Nakashima, and cousins Mary Ishiara, Jimmy Ishiara and Rendi Fujinaka, all originally from Hawaii; cousins Megan Takahashi, Christine Takahashi and Teresa Nakashima; and “mainland supporter” Atsuko Fukunaga.
Fukunaga, who was accompanied by her mother, Chiyo, a centenarian, said the group wants people to know that Hanabusa is “an advocate for older adults and a strong supporter of their rights.”
On July 30, the 49th anniversary of Medicare being signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, Hanabusa said, “I remain absolutely committed to protecting Medicare from any changes that would diminish its effectiveness and saddle our seniors with additional costs.”