The other day, a friend was questioning me about whether The Garden Island planned to endorse any candidates for public office. No, I said, we haven’t endorsed candidates since I came here five and a half years ago and we don’t plan to start endorsing any candidates now.
This particular friend expressed some thoughts that the local paper had a responsibility to come out in support of candidates we thought would best serve the people of Kauai. The newspaper, he said, should have a voice on important issues facing the island and who would be elected to public offices of mayor, council, legislators, even governor, was among those issues.
Good points, certainly. But I have not forgotten a lesson I learned from my old boss, who was adamant newspapers should steer clear of endorsements.
There are numerous reasons why.
Let’s start with this one. While you generally make the person happy that you endorse, you make sworn enemies out of those you don’t endorse, and as everyone who lives in Hawaii knows, people here don’t forget or forgive anything you ever said or did. It doesn’t matter how long ago it happened, people remember that you, in their eyes, once wronged them and there is no going back.
My old boss, one of the brightest people I’ve known, said it’s not the job of the newspaper to tell people who to vote for, which is essentially what an endorsement is doing. It is our job, he made clear, to give people information about the candidates so they can make informed decisions. Trying to convince the public to vote for a specific person because we like their platform, for whatever reasons, isn’t anything newspapers need to do. People are smart enough to figure out who should get their vote if newspapers will provide the information they need.
But that’s not the only reason we have steered clear of endorsements. There’s not always a clear candidate to endorse wholeheartedly without any reservations.
There’s also the argument that an endorsement of newspapers doesn’t carry that much weight anymore. That’s assuming that it once did. Case in point: Newspapers big and small were falling over themselves to endorse Hilary Clinton for president in 2016. They took up the fight against the evil that they said was Donald Trump. “Unfit for presidency,” they blared with headlines. “Don’t vote for Trump,” they cried; “he’ll ruin the universe.” Yet even without the backing of newspapers, Trump won. Ironically, many newspapers and other media outlets haven’t forgotten he won and are doing all they can to bring him down in 2020.
In this digital age of social media, websites, instant messaging, with newspapers battling for their very economic survival, it can be argued that endorsements should be the last of a newspaper’s worries. Let’s stick to covering the news and selling advertising.
Another point against endorsements is that if we endorse one candidate, people will conclude that our news coverage will be slanted in favor of that candidate. How can your coverage be objective, goes the argument, if you’ve clearly stated you believe one candidate is better than the other?
We’re not alone in our view of endorsements. A few years ago, in a HuffPost/YouGov survey, 51 percent of Americans polled said that newspapers should not endorse political candidates. Just 24 percent believed that they should, while the rest were unsure.
Americans’ reluctance to take guidance from editorial endorsements may have something to do with their lack of faith in the papers that issue them, Huffington Post wrote. Trust in the media, which has fallen steadily in the past decade, reached a new low, Huffington Post reported.
Another survey found that 53 percent said endorsements from the paper won’t affect their vote. Just 13 percent said it makes them more likely to support the candidate backed by their paper, the survey found.
OK. So, after all that, obviously, TGI is not going to endorse anyone, right?
Well, you would be mostly right. We’re not going to endorse anyone for mayor or county council or seats in the House or Senate.
But today, we will go against all those points we just made and we will endorse one person: Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in his bid for lieutenant governor.
Frankly, we believe the mayor has done a good job of inspiring the island and leading by example. When Carvalho shows up at an event — and he is at nearly everything — he brightens the room. Mind you, he doesn’t have to attend so many community events. He could say he’s busy and stay in the office. But he goes, and he makes people feel better. And when you feel better, you do better. There is a reason he was reelected by large margins.
Let’s ask the age-old question: Is Kauai better today than it was 10 years ago when Carvalho became mayor? We believe it is. There are new buildings projects. Businesses are doing well. Tourism is up. You could argue that’s simply due to a rising economy, falling unemployment rate and low gas prices (still low today even if they have climbed lately), but give the mayor his due. His actions influence those areas. There are improved parks, more bus stops, and a much bigger commitment to health and wellness through events like the Mayor-a-thon. When we had the devastating flooding in April, the mayor responded quickly to help the North Shore recover and be sure it received any and all government assistance it could and to be sure the county did what it could.
And agree with him or not, the mayor took a firm stand on Bill 2491 nearly five years ago and clearly stated his objections to it.
Now, the mayor’s detractors will point to problems. There’s a county budget that has increased to well beyond $200 million and has shot up since Carvalho took office; a bloated workforce, which in turn consumes much of the county budget for pay and benefits, too many poorly kept bathrooms, too much trash, too many abandoned cars on the roadsides, and sky-high housing prices that have caused a shortage and price increases in the rental market. Those concerns are valid.
But at the end of the day, we believe mayor has served Kauai with integrity, with vision, with intelligence and, most important, with heart. No one will dispute he is committed to this island and wants to see the best for it and the people who call it home.
The latest polls show Carvalho is trailing state Sen. Josh Green, while running even with state Sen. Jill Tokuda, but ahead of Kim Coco Iwamoto and state Sen. Will Espero. We should add that all of his opponents are fine people with experience who would benefit Hawaii as lieutenant governor.
Espero has been a legislator nearly 20 years. Green, an ER doctor and medical director, has been a legislator for nearly 15 years. Tokuda is a former aide to then-Lt. Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, and has been a senator for 10 years, and Iwamoto is an attorney and former state Board of Education member.
In our view, however, none have the heart of Bernard Carvalho. We believe he is one person who, as he earns more responsibilities and takes on bigger roles, will rise to any challenge, just as he did in his football career that took him briefly to the NFL. He is a man with vision. Carvalho would also be a stronger voice for Kauai as lieutenant governor.
So, while the polls show Carvalho is headed for defeat, the polls have been and can be wrong (case in point, President Donald Trump). We encourage people to vote in Saturday’s primary election and we encourage them to vote for Bernard Carvalho. Kauai has a chance to help put a good man in an office where he will serve this state well and, yes, with aloha.