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.