There are good people and there are good candidates. But the two are not always in alignment, none are without flaws and all have strengths and weaknesses. An individual could be in many ways a wonderful person, but a terrible candidate. The reverse is also of course true.
So how does one choose from a list of imperfect candidates? What criteria is best for judging who is best suited to serve in public office?
There are 21 candidates running for election to the Kauai County Council. I am clear there are 7 among this group who can serve us well.
But how to choose?
Personally, I start with a clean slate, and then a process of elimination.
First I eliminate the jerks, the bigots, the misogynists, the bullies, and the ignorant, pompous know-it-all’s.
Next, I eliminate those candidates who IMHO have clear conflicts of interest via their employer or other business affiliations. My preference is that the candidate if elected will serve only one master, and that would be the people.
Then, assuming there are still options left on the prospective candidate list, I eliminate the ungrounded, unstable, and those without roots in the community.
I realize the above process of elimination may seem harsh, and is a personal and subjective evaluation. But hey, it’s my vote to do with as I like in the privacy of the voting booth.
Once the process of elimination is out of the way, I rank the remaining candidates based on trust, core values, competence, life experience and strength of character. Again this is a personal score card, based mostly on instinct and general observations of the candidates actions and history in the community.
My goal is to identify candidates whom I know with some certainty will not abuse the public trust. And who share my general world view of putting people and the environment ahead of corporate profits. Competence, life experience, and specific skill sets are of course also important.
I look for balance. Diversity is important. Historically women have been underrepresented and sometimes geographical and other demographic representation is lacking.
Experience of course is important, but so also is the presence of new ideas, new energy and new perspectives.
My practice when voting for the County Council, is to only vote for those individuals I truly want to see elected, even if this means voting for only a handful of candidates and not using my full allotment of 7 votes.
Our community is fortunate to have a large and diverse field running for the County Council this year. I encourage all to get to know them, scrutinize their records, view the on-line forums.
August 8th is the final day that ballots must be received by the office of elections. On August 9th, the field of candidates will be then narrowed to the top 14. I am hopeful that all of Kauai will take the time to vote, and take ownership of our local democracy.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i 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 Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.