June 2nd is the deadline for candidates to file for public office and August 8th is the date of Hawai‘i’s primary election.
There will be at least one opening on the seven member Kaua‘i County Council as Ross Kagawa is “termed out” and cannot run for re-election. We can thank the wisdom of voters who put into place term limits for Councilmembers some years ago for this fortuitous situation.
There will also likely be a second opening on the Council as most would assume that Arthur Brun, currently under felony indictment for assaulting a police officer (with his car), will not be running for re-election. But of course when it come to Kaua‘i politics, anything is possible.
The truth is, all seven Council seats are “open”. As are the positions of our State Senator and the three Kaua‘i Representatives. Just because an individual is sitting in the seat does not mean they own it.
Competition is a good thing and our community benefits from “contested elections” that force incumbents and challengers alike to work for the communities support and vote. Incumbents should be asked to explain their accomplishments and their lack of accomplishments. Challengers must explain and convince the voter of their ideas, energy, ability and commitment.
This is the time when voters must ask the tough but obvious questions.
Is the Kapa‘a traffic better or worse than it was when the incumbent was first elected? What will the challenger do differently to address this long neglected situation?
Is Housing more affordable or less affordable than it was when the incumbent was first elected? Again, what are the challengers ideas?
How often has the incumbent held community meetings to hear personally and directly the needs, thoughts and concerns of the community? Note: A mailed survey, cookbooks and fancy brochures do not replace a genuine community meeting.
Unfortunately too often there is no challenger to choose from. Too often the incumbent gets a free pass while the voter gets shortchanged.
Many good potential candidates sit on the sidelines often locked by indecision, not knowing where to begin or what it actually takes to be elected and to serve.
I’m writing today to tell you it’s not that complicated, and that our community needs you. Am also writing to let you know that serving in public office can be incredibly fulfilling and does not have to be the so-called “thankless job” that many allude to.
The steps to running for election to public office are the same, regardless of what office you choose.
Answer the question “Why are you running?”
Assemble a small team of two or three volunteers who will help you manage your campaign – A treasurer accountant type who can help manage the campaigns bookkeeping and a campaign manager type who you can consult with and bounce ideas off.
File an “organizational report” with the campaign spending commission. This is required before you can raise or spend any money on a campaign.
Open a bank account for the campaign
Ask 20 friends to contribute $50 or more to your campaign. Note: If you can’t do this, you should stop now. While you don’t need a zillion dollars to run and win, you do need to raise money for basic campaign materials.
Design and print a post card type “walking piece” and a campaign business card. Keep it simple. The first printing should be just a few hundred pieces, enough to get started.
Head on down to the County Office of Elections and “pull papers”. These are the forms needed to actually file to run for office. Bring a diverse group of family and friends with you. Take pictures, issue a press release, post on social media. Celebrate the huge step you are taking. Get the buzz going.
Start knocking on doors and handing out your campaign materials. Everywhere you go, every person you meet- give them your campaign card.
Work with your campaign team. Analyze your district. Figure out what is important to the voters in your district. Hint – It’s the traffic in Kapa‘a and elsewhere. It’s the lack of affordable housing. It’s the general poor condition of our roads, etc.
Listen to the voters. Don’t tell them what’s important to you until after you find out what’s important to them.
Do not worry about having big events. Host one such event possibly just before election day but FOCUS ON THE BASICS – Hold signs in the morning and knock on doors in the afternoon. REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT.
You must be willing to ask people for help, and yes ask them for money as well.
Be yourself. Have fun. Smile. Speak from the heart. Do your homework. Listen to people.
I suggest you start now. There is a lot of work to do.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.