Posted tagged ‘Election 2010’

Dirty districting

December 15, 2010

I have a thing about political candidates running in districts where their residency is loose or worse.

The purpose of district representation is to have legislators and council members who can truly speak for the needs of the people in the district because they are one of them and have as much stake in the welfare of the district as their constituents.

If we’re going to allow candidates to easily parachute into districts in search of the best political opportunities for themselves, we may as well go back to at-large voting.

Obviously the voters don’t necessarily agree with me. Our last three open congressional seats have been won by candidates who didn’t live in the district in which they ran.

Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo easily won a City Council seat this year despite questions about her ties to the district, and in previous elections the late Duke Bainum won a council seat after moving into the district the day before the filing deadline and Charles Djou moved from Windward Oahu to East Honolulu to find an easier path to the council.

Which brings us to the current special election to replace Todd Apo in Council District I, where Makakilo residents Mel Kahele and Kioni Dudley admit to setting up quickie residences elsewhere in order to be eligible to run.

Kahele, who is using his daughter’s address, justifies himself by saying Makakilo used to be part of District I. And South America used to be connected to Africa.

Dudley rented an address after saying he was unable to find any other candidate actually living in the district who represents his concerns, a conceit that tells you something about his concerns.

Their residency is being challenged with the city clerk by one of the 12 other candidates, Matthew LoPresti, himself a short-timer in the district. It’s unlikely there will be a resolution  before the mail-in voting is done, leaving it to voters to sort things out.

O‘ahu’s rash of incumbents

November 4, 2010

I was at a fast-food drive-through for lunch and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that said, “Voting for an incumbent is like voting for an allergy.”

I must admit to sharing the sentiment at times of frustration with the fumbling of local government, and it made me wonder why O‘ahu voters so seldom hold incumbent elected officials to account.

I came of voting age on the Big Island, where the electorate once threw out six of the nine sitting council members — including the major power players — in one fell swoop.

Neighbor island voters still aren’t bashful about cleaning house. This year, the Big Island voted out three council members; Maui gave the boot to its mayor, two council members and a legislator; and Kaua‘i dumped its council chairman and a legislator.

On O‘ahu, I can’t think of a single incumbent who lost unless you count Mayor Kirk Caldwell and U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, who were only warming the seats.

Why the difference? Are neighbor islanders just more cantankerous? Do voters in the smaller communities pay more attention and know the candidates better? Is it that elected officials on the neighbor islands get more intense scrutiny from the local media than in O‘ahu’s metropolitan setting?

Whatever it is, we could use more of their healthy political skepticism in the big city.

The unDjouing of Charles

November 3, 2010

A question from the election night mailbag:

Charles Djou vs. Colleen Hanabusa was a winnable race for the Republicans. How did they blow it so badly?

Three reasons that stood out to me:

• The Democrats did a much better job with their get-out-the-vote effort. The Democratic appeal led by Barack Obama himself seemed to resonate while the Republicans’ reliance on too many poorly targeted robo-calls seemed to annoy.

This was reflected in victory margins by Hanabusa and Neil Abercrombie that far exceeded the projections of even the most optimistic Democratic polls.

• Djou made a serious mistake by mostly campaigning straight out of the anti-Obama national Republican playbook that just doesn’t put points on the board in Hawai‘i, where two-thirds of voters still think the local-born president is doing a good job.

Djou would have scored better by focusing his campaign more effectively on the local issues where Hanabusa was vulnerable with voters, such as Bishop Estate, the legislative pay raises and her ties to Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone.

• While both campaigns were viewed as overly negative, the Republicans were seen as dirtier in the end.

The TV spot with the unauthorized, doctored photo making Hanabusa look like Darth Vader backfired on the Djou campaign. The cheesy “Big Spender” ad by the Karl Rove group cost Djou votes every time it ran. When the Republicans finally hit Hanabusa on Ko Olina, they turned off voters by dragging her spouse into it and throwing around the word “corruption” without laying a proper foundation.

Hanabusa, on the other hand, did a good job of mixing in some soothing ads with positive messages about values.

Inouye comes up smiling

November 3, 2010

General election 2010 was a very good night for Hawai‘i’s senior U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

After a dubious poll circulated by Republicans showed their candidate Cam Cavasso closing to within 13 points of him, Inouye ended up pulling 72 percent of the vote and beating Cavasso by more than 50 points.

While Republicans routed his party nationally in House and Senate races, the Democrats managed to retain control of the Senate, meaning that Inouye will stay on as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee for at least two more years.

He’ll also continue as the Senate’s president pro tempore, a position that puts him third in line for the presidency.

Inouye averted a major political embarrassment when his favored candidate in the 1st Congressional District, Colleen Hanabusa, took the seat back from Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou.

Inouye was criticized for handing the seat to the Republicans in the special election to replace Neil Abercrombie, when he created a Democratic split by encouraging Hanabusa to run against Ed Case.

Inouye is on track to make history in his ninth term by passing the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia as the longest-serving U.S. senator ever.

***

My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Obnoxious TV political ads can feel like a home invasion.”

Hawai‘i Democrats make a stand

November 2, 2010

As the rest of the country moved sharply to the right, local voters made a strong statement that Hawai‘i remains as liberal and Democratic as ever.

We stood behind Hawai‘i-born President Barack Obama as his policies were repudiated elsewhere, we elected an unabashedly liberal governor by a wide margin over a solid GOP opponent and we were one of the few states to turn a Republican congressional seat Democratic.

After bitter primary fights in most of the top races, Hawai‘i Democrats came together in an impressive show of strength that gave them a clear mandate to lead the state into the future.

While it was a night of tough losses for the Republicans, at least they put up a fight in most races after the debacle of 2008 when they failed to contest 40 percent of the legislative seats.

And they deserve credit for showing the courage of their convictions by running on their Republican values instead of fudging party philosophy, as successful Hawai‘i GOP candidates have often done in the past to compete in a Democratic state.

But now Republicans have to face the reality that after hearing them loud and clear, the great majority of Hawai‘i voters simply don’t share their economic beliefs and are not comfortable mixing religion and politics on social issues.

We’d benefit from a vibrant two-party system, but at this point in our history, Republicanism is not a brand that sells in Hawai‘i and the party is going to need some new ideas to return to relevance here.

A clear path on gay unions

November 2, 2010

Tonight’s election results should emphatically settle the divisive issue of civil unions.

Democrat Neil Abercrombie, a longtime supporter of gay rights who said he’d sign a reintroduced version of HB 444, scored a lopsided victory despite a major effort by churches that opposed the measure to get out the vote for their Republican ally James “Duke” Aiona.

Few legislators who voted for HB 444 felt the sting of the opposition as Democrats easily maintained their super-majority in the House and Senate.

The only reasonable way to read the results is that Hawai‘i voters by a solid majority are OK with giving gay couples the same legal rights as heterosexuals and it’s time to finally get past this issue that has divided us for more than a decade.

The Legislature should pass a clean version of the civil unions bill early in the 2011 session and Abercrombie should sign it without delay so we can move on to other problems.

Negative to the end

November 2, 2010

Happy election day, all.

In this year of the negative ad, I think it’s only fitting to end the campaign with my favorite negative political ad of all time. It’s from 1952, not 1956 as the title says, when Adlai Stevenson alleged that controversial conservative Sen. Robert Taft would run the country if Dwight Eisenhower was elected president.


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