Archive for September 2011

The political gods smile on Mufi Hannemann

September 7, 2011

After the embarrassing drubbing former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann took from Neil Abercrombie in last year’s governor’s race, who would have thought he’d have a chance to climb back into one of the state’s top offices just two years later?

But the 2nd Congressional District seat opened by Mazie Hirono’s run for retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s job seems a golden opportunity for Hannemann to reclaim a choice spot on Hawai‘i’s political ladder.

The dismal 37.8 percent of the vote he received against Abercrombie was a stunning repudiation, and he’d have a lot to worry about if he had to go one-on-one against another top Democrat.

But this congressional race could draw a half-dozen candidates or more, and Hannemann would need only a plurality to win. If he held anywhere near that 37.8 percent, he’d win in a landslide; Hirono won a multi-candidate primary in 2006 with barely 20 percent of the vote.

Hannemann will have a substantial bankroll and likely a long list of business and labor endorsements that his current announced opponents — freshman City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard and veteran congressional aide Esther Kiaaina — will find difficult to match.

Former state Sen. Gary Hooser has also expressed interest, but he seems to have peaked with middle-of-the-pack finishes in the 2006 congressional race and last year’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

No Republican candidate of any weight has emerged.

Unless there’s a surprise entry or Hannemann makes more of the foolish mistakes that did him in against Abercrombie, this race looks like his to lose.

A ‘waha’ state of mind

September 6, 2011

My last “serious” column before going on vacation was about Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s tendency to orate over and over about the state’s problems without having new progress to report in solving them.

A reader wrote in using a word to describe the governor that I haven’t heard since my days in Hilo High — “waha.” It technically means “mouth,” but carries a broader meaning of all talk and no action.

I started to see a pattern when the word popped up again in another e-mail containing what the reader said was an old Hawaiian saying:

Hana ka hoe (Work the paddle),
pa‘a ka waha (close the mouth).

These struck me as very profound words whose applicability went well beyond the governor to everybody in public life from the local City Council to the U.S. Congress — and maybe even those of us who comment from the sidelines.

As we come out of Labor Day supposedly renewed for the rest of the year, we’d make more progress toward getting past our differences and solving our stubborn problems if we all paid more attention to working the paddles.


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