No “Grand Old Party” Here

What’s new, politically, for Monday morning? Nothing if you’re a Republican. Trump’s in trouble. The GOP’s Andria Tupola won a non-partisan City Council seat but Democrats hold our two U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats. Nothing seems to be changing in the State Legislature.

Gallup — the company known for its credible public opinion polls worldwide — says that starting last year Americans were turning more toward the Democratic Party than they had in the previous six years.

We’re still center-right, just not as heavily so as before. 37% of you say you consider yourself a conservative. 24% identify as liberal. But look at this — 35% pretty much dead center.

However, there’s a significant glitch there. Conservatives and moderates tend to be much more closely allied on major policy issues such as healthcare and immigration than are liberals and moderates.

Among all Republicans, 73% told Gallup they are flat-out conservative with no truck for moderates. 21% admitted to more moderate views and only 4% liberal.

And I really found this interesting: People who once might have been liberal or moderate Republicans increasingly identify as politically independent instead.

On the other side, Democratic voters are more ideologically diverse than Republicans, with 49% identifying as liberal, 36% as moderate and 14% as conservative.

I wish Gallup would poll Hawaii on that topic. I think the finding would be that we started out very liberal when Democrats came into power around statehood but then became much less so as that original force of AJA’s returned from WWII advanced in age and, politically at least, became their parents. The speed of change troubled them.

Democrat delegates at the Obama convention

In fact, we probably would have had a significant Republican Party presence in our leadership now had it not been for that intrusion of religious conservative Pat Robertson, who drove some of the most promising GOP players into the Democrat’s camp.

Republicans at the Hawaii State GOP precinct meetings

The GOP never recovered. It did elect the liberal Republican Linda Lingle as governor and, notably for our Democratic state, more isle residents back then voted in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary — 159,650 to 123,232.

But Lingle’s petticoat tails had no power to bring along a significant presence in the Legislature and the party went back to sleep. Its candidate after Lingle’s eight years was the religious conservative Duke Aiona and that didn’t play at all well here.

I hear complaints all the time about one party rule and how bad Democrats are for business and wise expenditure of money, but not an iota of substantial new policy ideas. Just complaints. The local party resembles the national one, which wants to kill Obamacare but never has a replacement program to offer people who need affordable healthcare.

For a while, the local GOP was bugged by ultra-conservative member Eric Ryan, who tried to jump-start a REAL Republican Party. But he’s a muffled voice now.

And even the rock-solid East Oahu Republicans stood by as their hero, Sam Slom, was ousted by young Democrat Stanley Chang in the State Senate. Hawaii Kai has retained Republican Gene Ward in the State House, one of just five rare birds there.

No change this year. The mayor’s office will be won by either an independent (Blangiardi) or a party Democrat (Amemiya). Democrat incumbents will be back in the Legislature and remaining in charge in the non-partisan-but-we-know-you City Council.

A chunk of voters may be unhappy with what they see happening with our one-party system, but they suffer it rather than take a chance on being given what Trump and McConnell have given the 50 states — embarrassment.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The really good news today is how well our all-mail-in Primary Election went yesterday.

If you’ve read any of the stories about the wholesale screw up New York had with its mail-in experiment, you’ll realize we owe our state elections people a few words of gratitude for a job very well done. New York had some ballots being mailed out to people just three days before the deadline to have them back in. Checking postmarks and signatures there turned into a holy mess. The lawsuits are coming. That state’s election office screwed up and so did the U.S. Postal Service.

We aren’t often one of the most government-efficient states, so this performance by our gang should give us an unusual feeling of total satisfaction.

The Bad is that with mayoral front runners Blangiardi and Amemiya only drawing a total of about 45% of the votes cast, that means that 55% of the voters wanted somebody else. But they can’t have somebody else. They have those two or nobody. 55% “somebody else” is a figure not to be ignored. It says a pox you Rick and you Keith. But one will be the next mayor of Honolulu and neither one has an ounce of elective experience. Keep in mind how the Eileen Anderson one-term mayoral experiment worked. And she had been the city budget director and knew how our finances work. The current two know TV station budgets and insurance rates. Yes, they will hire department heads but they won’t really know if those people are doing things right or wrong.

Now about The Ugly — money. We go through this every election. Money buys TV spots and newspaper ads and those influence many voters who really haven’t paid any attention to a candidate’s plans. They vote based on looks, race, warm feelings and name recognition.

Most have not given money. Most of the greenbacks come from principles in firms that will be doing business with the city. And then more of the money comes from candidates wealthy enough that they can loan their campaigns any amount of money they can spare. So even if we could ban contributions, all we’d get would be those rich enough to finance a campaign themselves. We can’t keep candidates from spending their money on themselves. This year, Blangiardi and Amemiya were the top spenders (and top loan-to-themselves candidates) and got the top number of votes.

But still only 45% between them!


And Now The Heavyweight Title Bout

It’s was a surprise. The Star-Advertiser’s Mason-Dixon Poll had Rick Blangiardi and Colleen Hanabusa early on as the top two candidates for Honolulu mayor. Keith Amemiya had spent the most  — about $1.5 from contributors and $400,000 of his own money— but was dogged by flyers  citing a poor record on Title 9 girls’ sports issues while leading the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. But last night, Amemiya was a strong #2 and Hanabusa a trailing #3.

The Blangiardi-Amemiya November runoff will be especially interesting because the polling shows Blangiardi heavily favored by many Republicans. Amemiya is a member of the Democratic Party. Blangiardi says he’s an an independent.  He’s backed by the Ben Cayetano family but has many signs in former Republican congresswoman Pat Saiki’s yard in Waialae-Kahala. Then there’s that haole versus AJA consideration. Where will Hanabusa’s AJA voters go?

Blangiardi is new to politics and government administration. He’s best known to voters because of his editorials on Hawaii News Now when he was its general manager. He was dogged during the Primary by a Civil Beat story of his participation in a smelly real estate deal many years ago, but in the end that seems to have been ignored by voters.  Amemiya’s contributor list seems to show Honolulu’s power structure on his side. Like Blangiardi, he loaned his campaign a large chunk of money.

I’m most puzzled by the weak showing of Hanabusa and even weaker by Mufi Hannemann. Was it that both were closely connected with building the not-very-popular train from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center? But both Blangiardi and Amemiya support building the train out to the AMC terminal. Was it Hanabusa’s loss in the governor’s race last time around, or Hannemann’s losses at every level from governor to Congress? Or was it voters tired of same-old?

I ask that last question because I’m stunned that incumbent Harry Kim came in third in the Hawaii Island mayor’s race. We’re talking about Saint Harry Kim!!

The extremely poor showing of Choon James for Honolulu mayor — about 5,000 votes in the Primary — surprised me. I did not expect her to get anywhere close to the top, but thought her activism against the Kahuku windmills and other less-than-popular city projects such as rail to Ala Moana Center would draw a much larger number of supporters. It shows that money counts — for incessant TV advertising and campaign people spread around Oahu. Poor does poorly. The top spenders were the top mayoral vote getters. That never seems to change in our local or national politics.

The General will not be just about money and personality. There remains the big issue of who is most ready to step in and handle our serious budget issues while maintaining critical city services. New blood or old blood? A former TV executive or a former insurance executive?  That AJA vote. Who’s the most stimulating debater? Which labor and development groups will give the most money and support to which candidate?

The heavyweight bout begins.


What A Race!

I’ve lived in Honolulu so long that my memory of every mayor race we’ve had in my time is getting a little foggy, but it seems that this year we are being offered a few that are highly qualified, one other with some political background but ages on the sidelines, and two businessmen with nary a day even on the City Council,  And a minister who’s also a taro farmer and GOP member retired from the State House in 2006.

I figure it’s been hard for some voters to make a choice. And a good choice is truly a must this year because we’re going to be in a deep city budget hole due to Covid. A mayor playing catch-up and learn-up with city budget priorities could be a disaster for all of us.

So today is a big day. Will we pick a professional or an amateur. If the mail-in ballots go well, we’ll know sometime tonight — or maybe tomorrow.

The real pros on the Primary ballot are Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann and Kym Pine. John Carroll was a pro many years ago in the Legislature. Since then he’s been a gadfly running for this and that and never getting even close to being elected. He’ll just draw votes from a few friends and some of those who will choose a known Republican — albeit this is a nonpartisan job.

Keith Amemiya and Rick Blangiardi are the well known businessmen. Lots of backers who want a non-political, non-trough-feeder at the helm. In a normal year that might be a reasonable goal. This is not a normal year. Running a business is not running a city with its many and contested needs and arcane methods of moving money around to pay for essential services — and a few non-essential ones that are essential to a mayor’s political survival.

The minister/taro farmer is Bud Stonebraker. Well known in East Oahu but not a chance of making a final twosome race in the General. Yes, he was once a state legislator in the House, but not one of note or leadership. Nice person, but that’s not what gets city projects done. No one expect Stonebraker or community activist Choon James to get anywhere near the brass ring.

Remember this race? Mayor and former prosecutor Peter Carlisle versus well-known legislator Kirk Caldwell and the eminently qualified but then-Republican Charles Djou. Carlyle had not set the world on fire in his first term. And it’s hard for a Republican to get elected here even in a non-partisan race. We got Caldwell.

Some of us who keep an eye on who’s who in politics sense that two of the best potentials for legislating rather than administering are Hannemann and Djou. Either probably would be a whiz in Congress.

My personal hope is that voters choose a pro — Hanabusa, Hannemann or Pine — who can run the city on day one without a learning period.

If we end up with one of the newbies-to-politics-and-government I’m going to be worried. We’re going to face a property tax crisis, a tourist crisis, enormous Bus and HandyVan expenses, and of course that daunting white elephant — the train. And all those public workers wage increases the State Legislator laid on the city.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the next mayor is somebody who comes to bat knowing all the rules of the game. Been there, done that.


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