HOOSER: ‘Just any ole blue won’t do,’ litmus tests or not

With the 2022 primary election less than one year away, candidates from around the state are starting to step forward.

On Kaua‘i, the political landscape remains somewhat quiet at the moment. However, with two incumbent Kaua‘i County councilmembers forced to step down because of term limits, you can be sure new faces and new voices will be stepping up soon to ask for your help and support.

At the state level, I would argue that new challengers are needed as well, and that competition is good for democracy.

I write a regular mass email (garyhooser.com/#four) and blog weekly on issues pertaining to policy and politics across the state. Often I get asked by readers, why I am supporting Candidate X over Candidate Y (who is often the incumbent).

The short answer is one that former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner has by now made famous: “Just any ole blue won’t do.”

Yes, Candidate Y is a nice person. And yes, Candidate Y may be good on environmental or other specific subject-matter issues, and they may even return my telephone calls and are always pleasant, courteous and professional. That’s all good stuff, but in my opinion (and this is an opinion column) that is not enough. Not by a long shot.

Our community needs change-makers, not just place-holders.

We need legislators and policymakers who feel deep down the urgency of the moment. We need individuals serving us in public office who have both the commitment and the courage to take the bold action so desperately needed now.

Sitting in the back row, keeping your head down, not making waves, then going home and bragging about the money you brought back to the district is not enough.

We need legislators who are willing to fight hard for the rights and needs of regular local people AND protect our natural environment.

Our economy is dominated by and addicted to military spending and the tourism industry — both of which have hugely negative environmental and societal impacts. We have families living in encampments under bridges, in our beach parks and alongside our roadways. The median price of a single-family home exceeds $1 million, while our minimum wage remains stuck at $10.10 per hour.

Simply holding space at the Legislature, balancing the budget, staying out of trouble and looking good in a jacket are not enough.

We need to elect government leaders who understand the urgency of the moment and who are willing to fight for economic, environmental and social justice.

Some will say there should not be a “litmus test.” I disagree.

For me to support a candidate there are three:

• They must believe that if someone works 40 hours a week, they deserve to be paid a wage sufficient to provide basic housing, medical care and three meals a day: a living wage;

• They must believe and understand that environmental protection is a public-trust responsibility. Our water, our coastlines and our public lands cannot be sold or privatized, and must be protected;

• They must believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect, regardless of color, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, age or income status.

But simply believing in these things is still not enough. We need to elect leaders who possess the self-confidence and inner strength of character needed to vote their conscience, speak truth to power, and make the “good trouble” so desperately needed at this particular point in our history.


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 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. YuCalJoe September 29, 2021 4:22 am Reply

    I see at least two errors in your criteria. First, working a 40 hour week in a minimum wage job has never been, and never should be, a “living wage”. It’s a minimum wage JOB. Not a CAREER. Huge difference in skill requirements. I know. I worked two 40 hour week minimum wage jobs at the same time while living with my parents (I was 19 years old). Both were low skill requirement jobs. The income was nice, but not enough to equal the pay of a skilled career. And medical care is the responsibility of the individual at all times, benefit or not.

    Second, yes the environment should be protected by the people. As for public land sales, not permitting it is mirroring a socialist nation’s policies. But in general, I understand that caring for our natural resources is a must.

    Third, simply put. Follow the Bible as a rule book for treating others and personal traits. Help the needy. Pray that the “wanters” until change their ways so that they can become a helper. And never help others at the expense of someone else without their permission.

    Blue, Red, Green or whatever party is just a political party line. Ignore them all. Elect honest people who follow God’s teachings. God’s plan is perfect. Mankind’s plan is a plan for failure.

    1. TimesChange September 29, 2021 2:26 pm Reply

      Uncle, I’m not sure when you were born but since 1970, minimum wage has gone from $1.60/hr to $10.10/hr, a 500% increase. Rent during the same period has gone from $108 to $1108, a 1000% increase. Your minimum wage dollar back then simply went further.

      Of course minimum wage shouldn’t be as much as a career but you should be able to live off of it. If minimum wage kept up with what your era earned, minimum wage workers would make $20/hr, which you could absolutely live off of.

  2. Rev Dr Malama September 29, 2021 6:55 am Reply

    $inging the blues…. the $uck stops here!

    While (surprisingly) there is much truth in this opinion article, Gary only skirts nailing the obvious that presumes the only way for Hawai’i to regain Independence is through EDUCATION AND THE VOTE…..

    Those 2 weapons and in that order may keep us from teetering in the direction of full blown ANARCHY or worse? Continuing the emergency Martial law in order complete the cultural genocide and displacement of a peaceful and Neutral Nation, The Hawai’ian Kingdom…

    1. nothings free? September 30, 2021 4:16 am Reply

      So sorry Rev. You say ” Continuing the emergency Martial law in order to complete the cultural genocide and displacement of a peaceful and Neutral Nation, The Hawai’ian Kingdom…”, but in reality there has been no “cultural genocide”. Many of us are keeping the simple Hawaiian Language alive, maintaining the rituals of individuals and families, honoring our ancestors with holidays, gatherings, Hula, and prayer etc. And never forget that your ancestors voted by a 96% margin for the Hawaiian Kingdom to become a part of the United States of America! It was their near unanimous choice, and it’s up to you to make it the best it can be. Not by changing our current status, but by making it even better.

      1. Rev Dr Malama October 1, 2021 9:06 pm Reply

        E kala mai…. sorry, you are wrong.
        Written and proven historical facts and today’s truth is here….if you dare!
        Which I doubt….
        But thousands of people around the world now know the facts and it’s all here @

  3. RGLadder37 September 29, 2021 11:00 pm Reply

    Well what would you hire a county council who lacks skills for? Just hire someone else. The county council’s job as a politician is an interesting topic. We live in America. And we represent the 1st Amendment right. Why would you pay anyone $75,000 dollars a year, for not knowing what kind of job this is in government? That means they can live by any means, as long as it is in the frame work of a bipartisan party. Democrat or republican. And there are few other not so popular parties, but they don’t pay attention because of not popular. This means the rules of the game in life become more expandable. The game has now taken on new limits. No can help means that person went to Las Vegas, Nevada to spend some of his life savings. And part of the community. And maybe a leader. Is this illegal? No. Free country to do with your money as you please. Do you see my point in politics.

  4. USAF Brat September 30, 2021 5:17 am Reply

    mAhalo Rev Dr. malama and “two” others ON-Point for GETTING your posts published. The attempts at circus practices are in GAME OVER mode!

  5. WestKauai September 30, 2021 8:35 pm Reply

    When I began work at age 14, I did not expect to pay rent or feed myself from that income. It was simply an introduction to the concept of reasonable payment for unskilled labor. Of course I did better as time passed and my skills improved. Now, 56 years later, I have retired comfortably because I made the effort, not because someone artificially raised the minimum wage.

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