Young Democrats attend regional conference

“Don’t be afraid of losing. Be afraid of what it takes to win.”

Sen. Brian Schatz delivered that statement during the Young Democrats of America Pacific regional conference in Honolulu.

The senator’s call to action resonated with Kauai Young Democrats member Michael Miranda.

“It’s important whether you’re a candidate or a campaign operative,” Miranda said of learning about issues such as smart growth that impact politics, along with strategies to build campaigns, ways to increase voter participation and discussions about the future direction of the state’s Democratic Party.

Being able to interact with various politicians and speakers was an “incredible and stimulating experience” for Dylan Hooser, KYD president.

“The Kauai delegation raised issues of importance including affordable housing, sustainable local food production, pesticides regulation and raising the minimum wage in Hawaii to $15 an hour, “ Hooser said.

On Friday, members of the KYD delegation took part in an educational tour of Oahu, which included meeting with farmers and small business owners in Haleiwa, followed by a tour of The Hawaii Laborer’s Union Training Program, which also provides training for construction workers on Kauai.

The group also toured the new Honolulu Rail Transit facility, which is under construction and ended with a discussion with former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa about the future of the military in Hawaii.

Saturday’s workshops included a visit from former U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and a presentation by Neenz Faleafine, who ran social media efforts for several state campaigns in recent years.

For KYD member Leeona Thompson, the best part of the weekend was the opportunity to meet with former Hawaii governors Neil Abercrombie, John Waihe’e III and George Ariyoshi.

“Gov. Abercrombie made a point that many of our past governors would never have been elected had the opportunity of having multiple representatives for their districts not been available when they were first elected the house or senate,” Thompson said. “Even Gov. Waihe’e felt he would not have got to where he was politically had it been single-member districts when he ran.”

Thompson added that the issue of returning to multi-member districts is an idea her generation needs to discuss to see if would allow for more equal representation throughout the state in hopes of increasing participation by younger voters.

The most striking message for the Kauai delegates from Abercrombie’s presentation was when he said, “People always forgive you for being wrong, but people rarely forgive you for being right,” in regard to calling for campaign spending limit reform so that all campaign money would be equal.

“It’s virtually impossible for anyone of modest means to make it into the legislature,” he said, adding that the system was increasingly a system of “little baronies” rather than offering the broadest level of participation possible.

The issue resonated with several attendees seeking financial backing for campaigns when voters are often unfamiliar with young, new candidates.

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