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Kaua‘i politics – ‘It’s fun to speculate’

The inaugural meeting of the new council was held only yesterday, so the thoughts, plans, scheming and campaigning for 2022 start now.

To be sure, there is likely to be lots of movement across all Hawai‘i in the 2022 elections. Due to reapportionment that occurs every 10 years, disruption of the political status quo literally comes with the territory as district lines are redrawn.

Every one of the 25 state Senate seats will be up for election, as will be all 51 House seats. The governor and lieutenant governor positions are open, as is the office of mayor.

Due to term limits, Kaua‘i Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and Vice Chair Mason Chock will be “termed out.” They each are likely even now thinking about what future opportunities might be right for them. Those who have contemplated making a run for public office are likewise encouraged by the knowledge that at least two new candidates will be elected to the 2022 Kaua‘i Council.

My guess is that former Councilmember Vice Chair Ross Kagawa is also contemplating where he might possibly run and win. Will it be a run for a House seat, perhaps, or back to the council?

I know firsthand that once you get the bug, it’s hard to shake it loose.

All three, plus former Mayor and now Councilmember Carvalho, are likely giving serious thought to 2022 and considering the various options. Throw into the mix former Council Chair Mel Rapozo and possibly former Councilmember and Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, and you have six experienced politicos arguably champing at the bit to “run for something.”

Few incumbent state legislators will have a lock on re-election in 2022, and all seats are vulnerable. The general lack of progress and do-nothing perception, the ongoing unemployment debacle, increasing numbers of houseless and those without health insurance, and the fact that the Legislature failed to reconvene in an emergency special session are all lining up as opposition talking points.

It is mind-boggling that the Legislature has not reconvened to at least enact the legislation needed to “fix” the face-covering mandate, allowing for jaywalking-like tickets instead of the crazy, $5,000 fines now in place. While in session they could also have removed the state income tax from unemployment benefits and provided additional grants, loans and/or tax credits to small business — but they didn’t.

There is so much work to do, and from the Legislature it’s just crickets.

Holding online COVID informational briefings with the high mucky-mucks and not even allowing the public to email in their testimony, thoughts and suggestions is at worst meaningless political posturing and, at best, rude, arrogant and politically tone-deaf.

The 2022 elections will judge state legislators to a great extent on what they didn’t do in 2020 and 2021. That will be the discussion, and every seat will be vulnerable to the argument.

The coconut wireless is also is sending out a steady stream of positive messages touting the popularity, both locally and statewide, of our own Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami.

Due to his excellent track record in dealing with the pandemic here on Kaua‘i, Kawakami is seen by most as being unbeatable in a bid for reelection. However, there is also growing speculation that he is considering a leap to the governor’s seat.

And why not? His political stock and favorability rating statewide is probably far higher than any other contender at the moment, including that of Lt. Gov. Josh Green and outgoing Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell (two known contenders for governor in 2022).

Unlike the general perception of his potential opponents, he is young, self-effacing and competent. Kawakami literally grew up on the knee of the late former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, he is seen as a successful businessman, an avid waterman and a local boy through and through.

He may, of course, decide to sit tight as mayor, but such a decision means he would likely be waiting for eight more years, and no telling what his star may be like at that point in time.

Should he make that move, you can bet that many would scramble for the opportunity to take his place as Kaua‘i’s next mayor. The names Chock, Kaneshiro and Rapozo come to mind, but my guess is that there might be more.

Ambition is not a bad thing. Most who serve in public office love the work, want to continue doing it and want to do more. Ultimately the people choose.

There are the knowns and the unknowns, and it is the unknowns that really throw things for a loop. When it comes to politics and elections, you just never know what’s around the next corner.

A good friend of mine, who was by my side through many past campaigns and who engaged with me in many a roadside political conversation, was fond to say “it’s fun to speculate.”

And yes, I confess, it is indeed fun.


Gary Hooser is the former vice chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i and served eight years 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.

  1. Ricardo December 2, 2020 5:00 am Reply

    Gary, you said above “I know firsthand that once you get the bug, it’s hard to shake it loose.”

    Most things in life can be pursued in good ways but also bad ways. You have seen outstanding politicians in your time, but you have also seen politicians go bad.

    The essay you might write on “the bug” could be very interesting if you honestly explored all of its aspects. You have shared many good thoughts with us, how about a deep look into the eyes of “the bug?” Thanks!

  2. USAF Brat December 2, 2020 6:20 am Reply

    It is more “fun” to be “paying attention”! EXcept in this particular long-range planning, it is GAME OVER! We the people don’t and haven’t ever trusted the voting scamdemic platforms for almost 13-decades. The retroactive players have been wearing their true colors, ‘pointy-fingered’, P.A threats, and ‘cut bait’ types of the politicojudiciary pundits, that actually want you to believe they are working in the best interest of the people and the Akua who gave them free choice, free to continue the fraud and collusion rambo. Media has been capped, holding back on truth and integrity more than ever before. The new reality as my dad would say, “it’ll be a cold day in hell” when known cabal hui o fire-hydrant leg-lifting competitors will pay the same fees or that, FBI Kenji and Obums ways and means will follow suit imminently, OR especially now, since the Kealoha tip of the iceberg, “guilty stolen mailbox fraud” have been sentenced. Pay to Play, Stay out of their way, stay safe Hawaii, and watch the game start over on a ‘technicality’. Finally, we are blessed with the most powerful entity that has been observing and the times are upon us to have Light at the DUMBs end of the tunnel. Into the LIGHT; not dark, dank or evil! All of these guru had parents that supposedly raised them to ‘do unto others’, but none got the backup spiritual memo of ‘how to go about doing that’ with Love, instead of the ready, fire, aim mentalities that they will end up living for decades at their own gated federal community. Who is your ‘daddy’ and what kind of pizza have you had preferences for?

    1. Kalaheo December 2, 2020 10:49 pm Reply

      Qanon, red-pilled much???

    2. james December 3, 2020 7:27 am Reply

      Can someone translate this for me please?

  3. James I. Kuroiwa, Jr. December 2, 2020 7:54 am Reply

    Gary, yes I do agree that its fun to speculate on political issues. Yet, it’s critical the the author fully disclose speculation up front that the comment is speculation then to mislead the reader. Best is to present the facts and the truth.

  4. Kauaidoug December 2, 2020 8:33 am Reply

    At this point my speculation is “anyone but Ige”!
    As much as I would hate to lose Mayor K I think he is an excellent choice to lead Hawaii through what undoubtedly is going to be a very rough recovery from Covid19.

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