Former teen actor and regular Las Vegas lounge singer Brian Evans says he is challenging Sen. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) in the Sept. 18 Democratic primary because the 80-year-old World War II hero has not done enough to improve the lives of regular Hawaiians.
“He’s been in office since [John F.] Kennedy was president and it’s clear that those with the most have the best,” the 34-year-old Massachusetts native said. “His time is up.”
[IMGCAP(1)] Evans, who splits his time between homes in Vegas and Maui, said he decided to enter the race in February after meeting a toothless 14-year-old on the streets of Wailea in Maui.
“He couldn’t even chew a muffin,” Evans recalled.
After learning that many of the boy’s teeth had rotted because his parents lacked dental insurance, Evans began looking into Hawaii’s insurance program for the indigent, only to discover that there is no dental coverage.
That prompted him to write letters to Inouye and Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).
“I received no response from Akaka and a form letter from Inouye that was very generic,” he said.
Looking at hand-signed letters from presidents hanging in his office, the politically active Evans decided to step up his efforts.
“The only way these people listen to you is if you are competing with them,” he said. “Even if I lose, when they win they will have to at least promise to address at least some of what I am saying.”
Despite being ignored in his requests for debates, Evans remains upbeat, though not naïve, about an under funded political novice’s ability to affect change.
Evans refuses to accept donations from anyone and has funded his radio advertisements and planned television spots with his own money.
He wants to set the example that a campaign can be waged “without having to feed the machine.”
He has not taken the traditional campaign route. For example, he has not built a grassroots effort and has avoided the chicken dinner and party faithful circuit, preferring to reach out through the media.
Evans knows Inouye has the party hierarchy sewn up so figures it would be a waste of time.
“The rest of us are just extras, nobody really pays attention to us; we don’t even get a cracker at the buffet,” he said, acknowledging that state party leaders do not know, or care, that he is running.
And despite his show-biz background, Evans is grounded enough to realize that it does not automatically translate into an ability to win extra publicity.
“I’m not [Arnold] Schwarzenegger, I’m not even Joe Piscipo,” he cracked.
Nonetheless, he has appeared in two popular television shows, “Full House” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” and in three feature films, including “Book of Love.”
The one-time roommate of well-known actor Seth Green has recorded 17 albums and also briefly dated mega-star Angelina Jolie.
He has his own band and regular gigs in Sin City singing, in his words, “crooner” music — all of which adds up to some manner of fame and instant press coverage.
When asked how an average Joe candidate would mount a serious challenge to an institution like Inouye without contributions or built-in cache to garner press attention, Evans simply insists that it can be done without saying how.
Evans says Inouye is too entrenched and comfortable to address the needs of Hawaii’s poor and uninsured.
“It’s nothing personal, he’s a hero and put a lot into Hawaii. But people get so comfortable with one guy, it doesn’t matter that he isn’t doing anything,” Evans said. “Then they complain the next day that nothing has changed. I think people are just afraid to make the change.”
Evans said he would not endorse Inouye if he loses the Sept. 18 primary.
“I am never going to endorse somebody just because they are in my party.”
Evans has also tried to make Inouye’s age an issue.
Inouye, who turns 80 today, would be embarking on his eighth term if re-elected in November.
Evans points out that if anything should happen to Inouye before his term expired in 2010, Hawaii’s Republican Gov. Linda Lingle would get to appoint his replacement.
Though Aloha State law requires the governor to appoint someone of the same party as the departed officeholder, Evans said Lingle could appoint a weak Democrat, or even a Republican-turned-Democrat to take Inouye’s seat.
If Evans does not win the primary, a scenario that is highly likely, he says he does not want to give up on politics.
He mentioned challenging Akaka in 2006 or Lingle the same year as possibilities.
Politics does not have to be a scary proposition, he said.
“I think it would be fun to run for president.”