- Special Projects
Monday’s meeting of the Reapportionment Commission got a little strange. Two Big Island political rivals put on a bit of a show when one accused the other of trying to fix district boundaries to benefit himself.
Former Hawaii Republican Party leader Dylan Nonaka, who’s on the commission, found himself defending himself, his mother and a former Democratic mayor against accusations of gerrymandering.
In public testimony at the meeting, Big Island Sen. Josh Green, a Democrat, accused Nonaka of carving out a new Senate district on the Big Island for himself or his mother to run in. Green also claimed that Nonaka has drawn political lines in a way that would allow former Big Island Mayor Lorraine Inouye to run for a Big Island Senate seat and not have to face an incumbent. He threatened “immediate legal action taken against those committee members who conspire to gerrymander the Big Island districts.”
Green’s arguments are odd considering Nonaka has always supported a plan that includes counting all residents, even though that could cost the Big Island a fourth Senate seat. On top of that, Nonaka — as with all members of the Reapportionment Commission — is banned from running for a seat in the Legislature until two elections have passed. The accusation about helping Inouye is also odd — considering she’s a Democrat. Nonaka’s mother did run for Hawaii County Council in 2008.
Green spoke during the public testimony portion of the hearing so the two didn’t get into a public exchange. Nonaka was allowed to respond after all those testifying were heard.
Nonaka called Green’s claims “egregious inaccuracies.” He offered to pay Green $1 million if his mother runs for the Senate. That is, if Green would be willing to in turn pay Nonaka $1 million if she doesn’t run. (Green, unfortunately, missed that offer and said he was in the bathroom at the time.)
Nonaka serves on a subcommittee responsible for drawing up proposed political boundaries based on what the full commission decides. While the commission itself is subject to the state’s Sunshine Law, the Technical Committee is not.
Here’s a transcript of Green’s and Nonaka’s comments at the meeting.
“Redistricting considerations for a four-Senate district map for the Big Island that should be approved by the commission or mandated by the courts are being hijacked behind closed doors by a small group of individuals and no information is being given to the public.
It was suggested to me today by Mr. (Dylan) Nonaka that this map might never be discussed publicly.
When I asked how that was possible, he concisely stated: ‘With a four-seat map, well, you’ll just be expletive.’ His words, not mine.
This obviously caused me to have great concern for the people of Hawaii. Most concerning, however, is a serious violation of the law. I have learned that the plan is to gerrymander a district which will specifically benefit a former senator — Lorraine Inouye — so she won’t have to run against an incumbent in Waimea next year.
It places Waimea into the West Hawaii district and removes all of South Kona from West Hawaii.
Let’s be very clear: By gerrymandering districts in this way, Kona will be split in half. This is poison to the entire West Hawaii community, and runs counter to the expectation of every citizen in that region.
These actions also carve out a new district in South Kona/Ka’u, ostensibly for one of the members of the commission — Mr. Nonaka, or for his mother to run in.
I need to point out that redistricting in this way — to directly favor specific individuals — is illegal. If this secretive approach to reapportionment continues over the final days of this commission’s work, there will be immediate legal action taken against those committee members who conspire to gerrymander the Big Island districts to specific, to benefit specific candidates, with the result of displacing many thousands of Big Island voters. Individuals will be placed under oath and in the process will be fully explored.
Let me be clear: The people of Kona will not tolerate their community being politically divided in half to serve someone’s agenda behind closed doors.”
“OK, I wouldn’t normally do this, but there were some definite egregious, um, inaccuracies in his statement. I’m surprised that he could conjure up such an interesting conspiracy theory just over lunch, but, assumptions can be made, and I don’t respond to questions of our motives, but there’s two definite inaccuracies, factual inaccuracies, that I do want to respond to.
The first one is that if I’m trying to conjure up a fourth district on the Big Island to somehow benefit me — or not benefit me — I think I’ve been clear on the record for some time now and continue to explain my position about the population base, which wouldn’t send a seat to the Big Island in the first place. So that’s kind of hard to buy because I don’t even support the premise to put a fourth seat on the Big Island, and so I don’t know why I’m behind some grand plan to hurt Mr. Green in a fourth Senate district.
And the other one I want to respond to is regarding my mother — I don’t know why he would have to bring that into the discussion. It seems like a total lack of class in my judgement.
And just from a factual standpoint, the theoretical senate district that he’s referring to in his comments would not include my mother. She lives in South Kona, which would be cut off, so that’s completely not factual, and I’m glad I know now where that crazy conspiracy came from because I’ve been hearing that go around for a while.
I’d be happy to make an agreement with Mr. Green that if my mother runs for the Senate, I’ll pay him $1 million, if he’d pay me $1 million if she doesn’t.”