Welcome openness in Big Isle Senate picks

Give Big Island Democrats credit for transparency in the process to replace Sen. Russell Kokubun, who represented Hilo, Puna and Ka‘u before resigning to join the Abercrombie administration as agriculture director.

The party released the names of eight candidates who asked to be considered: state Rep. Faye Hanohano, former County Council Chairman Gary Safarik, health food store owner Russell Ruderman, Navy intelligence administrator Anthony Marzi, Abercrombie’s East Hawai‘i  campaign coordinator Gilbert Kahele, Ka’u doctor Richard Creagan, natural foods manager Susan “Marie” Sanford and attorney Beverly Jean “Jeannie” Withington.

Then over the weekend, the candidates were questioned in a speed-dating format by more than 40 representatives from the district’s 16 Democratic precincts, who voted to send the names of Ruderman, Marzi and Kahele to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Under state law, the governor must choose a replacement from the three nominees provided by the party. He has 30 days to act, but is expected to pick sooner with the start of the Legislature looming.

Credit also goes to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald for its diligent coverage of the appointment process — not only for Kokubun, but also the earlier appointment of Malama Solomon to replace Sen. Dwight Takamine after he, too, resigned to join the Abercrombie administration. Their latest story is here.

I wish the O‘ahu Democratic Party was as open and the island media as attentive in providing information about the replacement of Sen. Colleen Hanabusa by Rep. Maile Shimabukuro and the current process to replace Shimabukuro.

Update: Abercrombie’s office announced this afternoon that he’s appointing Kahele, 68, to the Senate seat.


I had to chuckle at a note in the Trib story that the Democrats’ weekend selection event was held at the Puna Hongwanji Mission.

I have absolutely no personal objections; it’s so Big Island and part of the island’s political charm. But I couldn’t help but imagine how the party’s increasingly vocal separation-of-church-and-state crowd would scream bloody murder if Republicans held such an event at a Hope Chapel.

It points up again how efforts of some Democrats to obliterate religion from public life blatantly targets Christianity over other faiths — a bias that will ultimately come back to bite the Democrats.

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18 Comments on “Welcome openness in Big Isle Senate picks”

  1. Craig Smith Says:

    The Democratic Party is not the Government they are just a political party. So where ever they hold their meetings is up to them.

    I would have figured that someone like you David would know the difference.

    Now if the Governor held a official government meeting at a Hongwanji then you would have something to crow about.

    Also there is a big difference between a Hongwanji and Hope Chapel. Where Buddhists are open and welcoming to anyone of any faith or nor non-faith the same cannot be said about Hope Chapel.

    Plus why would Democrats care where Republicans hold their meetings anyway – as a member of the general public I thought that is where they held them anyway. Because that is where they seemed to hold all their campaign rallies – at least for the last four Sundays leading up to the election this past November.

  2. zzzzzing Says:

    re: Separation of Church & State – yeah where’s crazy Mitch Kahale on this one, eh? Good observation, Dave.

  3. Craig Smith Says:

    Where is the violation zzzzzzing?

    Political parties are private organization that have the right to hold their meetings where ever they wish and they can be open to everyone or open to a select ultra-religious few like the Republicans seem to dead set on doing.

  4. David Shapiro Says:

    They are not the government, but they were performing an official statutory function of the government in helping to select a senator. Any candidate who wished to be considered or any Democratic Party member who wished to participate in this statutory function would have been forced to go to a church to do so. To argue that a Buddhist church is more constitutionally welcoming than a Christian church is dubious. A church is a church and what is good for one is good for the other. I’m not Christian or Buddhist, but respect both faiths. Just arguing for consistency in our political correctness.

  5. David Shapiro Says:

    zzzzzing, I appreciate the agreement, but the name-calling on Mitch isn’t necessary to the argument. After the weekend’s events, I’m getting more sensitive to that.

  6. Michael Says:

    What it was and What it is? America.

    Holding a meeting at Puna Hongwanji Mission,
    shows it as neutral zone between holding
    a meeting at a Christian Church
    or Muslim Mosque.
    The Public cannot call this
    Religious Infringement. In fact
    on Floating Lantern Festivals,
    people of all religions take part.
    You can’t refudiate this!

  7. Craig Smith Says:

    I guess I do not view a build as a religious entity – church groups use a movie theater or school cafeteria it does not make that building any more or less religious. I did not enjoy Zack and Miri Make a Porno any more or less after I found out that Word of Life used that theater earlier in the day.

    Now you might have more to chew on if the Buddhist had forced everyone to pray before the meeting.

    A church, movie theater, temple or cafeteria are all just buildings it is what you do in them that gives them meaning and purpose. By using the Hongwanji to help move along the selection process for the next Senator from the Big Island I would say as an agnostic it gave the building it’s best use in a long time. If it had been a Word of Life church then it would have been the BEST use of that building EVER!

  8. Mitch Kahle Says:

    David, I think we’ve always been vocal on the matter of state-church separation in Hawaii. It is after all the first clause, of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights; so it will always be important to keep religion out of government.

    I came across this little-known quote from Thomas Jefferson: “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” I couldn’t agree more.

    Regarding the Dems holding their weekend event at the Buddhist mission, this happens all the time; in fact the GOP held a debate at New Hope back in October.

  9. zzzzzing Says:

    Sorry about calling Mitch “crazy” – just habit I suppose. Wonder if it will come true? 😉

  10. Cloudia Says:

    I think that the Christian churches have made themselves anathema to many with hearts and minds. . . Ain’t no Buddhists hating!

    Keep up the amazing journalism! It’s getting rare as hen’s teeth in these islands. . .

  11. Michael Says:

    December 7th 1941, Pearl Harbor
    was attacked by Japanese. Many who are
    Buddhist. My ancestors are Buddhist.
    “Ain’t no Buddhists hating!”
    When will some say “Ain’t no Muslim hating”?

    Take the good from all religious beliefs and you
    will be Enlightened. Sunsee.
    See the dark side Lunasee.

  12. Mitch Kahle Says:

    To put it another way . . .

    “Religion is like an erection. You have every right to have one, but don’t go waving it around in public, and don’t try to shove it down other peoples’ throats.”

    — Anonymous

  13. el guapo Says:

    Churches are used as polling places and no one makes a big deal about it. Maybe Puna Hongwanji had the lowest rental fee?

    This was a great piece right up until ***, then it went south in a manner of speaking.

  14. zzzzzz Says:

    Is Puna Hongwanji a church or a temple?

  15. Dave Smith Says:

    As said by Craig Smith (no relation):

    “Now you might have more to chew on if the Buddhist had forced everyone to pray before the meeting.”

    You mean like the way the Hawaii County Council (and I hear also the Legislature, and who knows how many other government bodies) starts every meeting with a prayer?

  16. Kolea Says:

    I think el guapo’s comment is spot on. I thought Dave’s column was exactly right, in tone and detail, up until the triple asterisk.

    I even think he small dig at the Oahu Democratic Party for the lack of transparency in their selections was useful. I hope some of the OCC leadership is listening.

    But then Dave could not resist taking a cheap shot at the end, trying to rekindle controversy with a surefire formula designed to provoke. This is why the “red meat” social issues like civil unions get so much media play. It generates exciting controversy. It “sells papers! (Or, it sells “ones and zeros.”) Who can resist? Not Dave!

    I’m glad Mitch Kahle jumped in to speak on his own behalf. I think Mitch is not a Democrat, but a Libertarian? If so, he might want to throw that into the mix to help break down Dave’s provocative stereotypes about anti-religious Democrats?

    As a Democrat, an atheist and a soft Buddhist, I was content to sit back and watch other, much more capable people, respond. I lack the patience.

    (Really Dave. Had you stopped at the ***, it would have been a GREAT column. But you just couldn’t resist, could you?)

  17. Guido Sarducci Says:

    Kahle’s chosen quote is actually an expression of anti-Catholic and anti-Hispanic prejudice by Jefferson. You can read the quote in context with entire 1813 letter to Von Humbolt here:


  18. Kolea Says:

    Father Guido,

    Let me start by saying you are my favorite priest ever.

    I clicked on your link and did not find Jefferson’s full letter to reflect either an anti-Hispanic or anti-Catholic bias. I did find his comments about Native Americans to be disturbing. He said that because most tribes had allied themselves with the British in the ongoing war (the War of 1812) and had carried out brutal massacres of women and children as part of that alliance, the US government would be obliged “to pursue them to extermination, or drive them to new seats beyond our reach.”

    Jefferson was a strong advocate for the spread of the republican ideals throughout the Western Hemisphere and his ideas did inspire the independence movement of Spanish colonists to rebel against Spain. I think his statements about the opposition of the Catholic Church to both republicanism and the Enlightenment were quite appropriate for the period.

    The Catholic Church has only come to terms with democratic forms of government in the 20th century. And in most cases, that was forced upon them. They may have acquiesced to democracy. But I would be intrigued if you could provide a single example of the Catholic Church actively encouraging democracy prior to the mid-20th century. (I don’t mean individual Catholics, but the hierarchy of the Church).

    Certainly not at the time Jefferson was writing, in 1813.

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