Only one person stands between Tulsi Gabbard and the U.S. Congress, but many people in Hawaii probably never heard of him.

Gabbard, the former Honolulu City Council member and state lawmaker, shocked many with her come-from-way-behind primary victory over Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District.

Hawaii Democrats’ newest rock star, Gabbard is already being called congresswoman-elect by many, given Hawaii’s penchant for sending Democrats to Washington.

But Gabbard’s general election opponent, David “Kawika” Crowley, is not conceding anything.

He trounced GOP primary opponent Matt DiGeronimo 45-29 percent and earned more votes — 9,056 — than better-known congressional candidates such as John Carroll, Esther Kiaaina and Bob Marx.

Crowley, 61, is a self-employed handyman and painter who has never held elective office. But he’s no stranger to politics and government.

A self-described “college dropout with a degree in common sense,” Crowley has been the most visible proponent of smokers’ rights.

He is not hesitant to share his views on other matters, either. Consider his response to Civil Beat’s candidate survey asking if he supported President Obama’s controversial policy regarding the use of drones:

You damn right I support this policy. Due Process? We’re in a WAR for cryin’ out loud! Collateral Damage to civilians? I swear, had we fought WWII in the Politically Correct manner we fight our enemies today, we’d all be speaking German, Japanese, or Italian!!! BTW, only 2 things Obama has done right in his entire presidency is taking out the scumbag Ben Laden, and increasing the use of Drones.

Of course, he meant Osama bin Laden. But no matter.

Civil Beat sat down with Crowley to talk about about his candidacy last week at O’Toole’s Irish Pub in downtown Honolulu. It was his preferred meeting place so that he could smoke his King Edward cigars during the interview.

In this first installment of a two-part interview, Crowley explains why his campaign centers on the need to apply common sense to fix what he calls a dysfunctional Washington.

No Shakas

Civil Beat: Tell me how you beat Matt DiGeronimo in the primary. He was pretty convinced he was going to win. What was your strategy?

Kawika Crowley: I respect Matt. I’ve met Matt. I’ve talked with Matt before. There was no real difference between us as far as ideology. I really didn’t know what to expect, I’ll be frank with you.

I remember calling a friend the night before the primary and I kinda joked around in Pidgin and said, “Brah, I hope I get like 200 votes.” I had no expectations, because I had no conventional budget. I still don’t. All I did was get out on the highway in nine-hour (sign-waving) marathons everyday, all around the Windward Side — Waimanalo, Kaneohe, Kahaluu side. I look at it this way — and this really catapulted the campaign — I never do this stupid-ass shaka sign with a big smile. I’m applying for a damn-serious frickin’ job. Our country is going over the cliff. I’m not running for “America’s Got Talent.”

Every single car, I’m as serious as hell with a thumbs up. When they honk, when they respond, I give them a jerk. If they give me one shaka sign, I shaka back. Fine. But that’s not my intention. And you never see me smile. Because this is serious business. We’re in serious deep caca.

And I want to talk to you about that. But first, who do you think your supporters are?

That’s a good question. … I ran my own advertising business in Hilo for many, many years. … I bring that up because you always study your demographics — age, perception, whatever. This one, I knew: I had no budget, and all I had was the island of Oahu. If I could get strong support on Oahu, then I could just hope that my name recognition over the years would just cover. And that’s exactly what happened. I had 4,200 votes on the Windward Side. That’s what brought me over. … My strategy worked. Had I not spent hundreds of hours on the highway, Matt would have won.

Back to your question about who do I think are my voters: local folks, average Joes. They see me with a cut-off T-shirt. They see me with an old, beat-up van with a big old flag on top, no more shaka sign. They go, “Wow, this guy’s serious. He’s not a politician.” … I wear a shirt, always a cut-off, with “Kau Inoa” (on the front) because I’m a big supporter of the sovereignty movement.

Are you Hawaiian?

No. Not one drop Hawaiian. I’m Irish-Cherokee-English.

Where are you from originally?

Very bizarre background. I’ll make it quick. Born in North Carolina. At 6 months old my parents — they were in the ministry — chose Japan to spread the gospel. I grew up there for the next nine years. Japanese was my mother tongue. My mother taught me English after school every day. We weren’t military; we lived in the boonies. By the time we came to Hilo, in 1961, I hated English. I didn’t even learn my alphabet until eighth grade, Hilo Intermediate. … I was in Hilo 35 years, and the last 15 years Kaneohe side.

Deep Caca

You mentioned the “deep caca” the country is in. What troubles you so much about the direction of the country?

I’ll tell you right now, one word, and that’s the word of my campaign: dysfunctional. Dysfunctional. When some idiot lawmaker can sit there on television and say, “We must pass this bill so we can find out what’s in it,” and we are supposed to sit there and take it seriously? That’s like telling your wife, “Honey, let’s buy this Cadillac to see if it runs.” How frickin’ stupid is that?

Here’s another dysfunction: three-and-a-half years into this administration and we still don’t have a budget? Everyday folks cannot survive without a budget. But these assholes can? And they run our country? Here’s another dysfunction: This guy in Hilo, smoking pot, growing pot, was denied his parole.

Roger Christie?

Yeah. Two years in the federal pen! We’re paying for that. I don’t smoke pot. It doesn’t do anything for me. So I’m not backing up pot. But the point I’m trying to make is that it’s dysfunctional when you got a stupid-ass judge here letting a guy go who stabbed somebody 18 times and now he can go and study at the community college. That’s dysfunctional. It doesn’t make any sense.

All my opponents, I didn’t hear anything substantive in these debates.

The CD2 debates?

Yeah. Nothing substantive. Nothing on borders (immigration). Keystone Pipeline. Foreign aid. Nothing. It was all, “Oh, you never attend that meeting …” What? My point is this: My opponents like to talk about “experience.” Mufi (Hannemann) was, “I’ll hit the ground running.” My question is, “Where? Running in circles?” I mean, you gotta have a direction, OK?

Thomas Jefferson never had an ounce of experience. George Washington never had an ounce of experience. John Adams, who I’m related to, never had an ounce of experience. And look what they did: They started the biggest, most beautiful, fantastic nation ever in existence. You know what they had, Chad? They had common frickin’ sense.

That’s what we need right now. We don’t need experience. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the people over there with 2,000 years of experience. We’ve got guys in there since the Ice Age.

You don’t have much of a budget. What’s your strategy for taking on Tulsi Gabbard?

My strategy is this: My daughter, bless her heart, in Las Vegas, she’s a go-getter, knows thousands of people throughout the islands — I as well — and we’re just going to mount a standard grassroots campaign to get out the vote. Get some donations, because that’s what I need. I don’t need a half a million dollars to get my message out. All I need is 10 to 15 grand. And I know what media to apply that to — radio. That’s the best route to go if you’re on a limited budget. If you’ve got sky’s the limit, a million dollars, fine, throw some on TV. Radio, you can select your demographics per station, 18 to 34, 35 to 55, whatever.

Now, Gabbard raised about a million dollars for the primary and had several outside groups, on the mainland, spending another couple hundred thousand on her behalf. And her TV ads were all over the stations. Are you at all intimidated by that?

No, not at all. I look at it this way: It’s the underdog syndrome. That’s how she won. … I told a friend, “Remember about six months ago, had this lady running for Congress that nobody ever heard of? What was her name? Tulsi Gabbard!” The rest is history. She was swept under the rug. In politics anything can happen. She won with an incredible campaign. I give her credit for that.

But also, Mufi lost it more than Tulsi won it. … Mufi and I go back a long time. I know the whole family. We all in the music business from the sixties and seventies.

Are you a musician?

I co-wrote one of the most powerful songs in Hawaii, called “Hawaii ’78.”

The Bruddah Iz song?

Yeah. I co-wrote that song with three other brothers. I wrote the chorus: “How would they feel? Would their smiles be content, then cry / cry for the gods, cry for the people / cry for the land that was taken away / and then yet you’ll find, Hawaii.”

How it evolved into where it is now, the process of the writing of it and where it was discovered by this unknown group called the Makaha Sons on a very dark, cold night in Kohala, fascinating story. It’s all on my website,

Coming Tuesday, the final installment of Civil Beat’s Q&A with Kawika Crowley, where the GOP candidate tells us what he thinks about his Democrat opponent, Honolulu rail, gay marriage and smoking bans.

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