His face already reddened from all that sign-waving and those outdoor photo ops, Honolulu’s mayor glowed ever brighter as he worked the crowd at a curtained-off area of the defunct Sports Authority on Ward Avenue, his election night campaign headquarters.
It was almost enough to make Hawaii Democrats forget that the scene nationally for their party was woefully sad, just like Charles Djou.
Sitting in the back of the headquarters in a sea of green T-shirts, reporters groused about a Trump Nation while a University of Hawaii student told me her parents were Republicans and pretty happy … even though they don’t vote and the president-elect is (in her words) “a joke.”
Meanwhile, at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii in Moiliili, where other Dems held court election night, my Civil Beat colleagues tell me it was a subdued gathering that quickly thinned out as Hillary Clinton’s demise neared. Gov. David Ige’s official statement on the 2016 campaign, which came Wednesday, said not a word about DJT but only called for respecting “the democratic process” and “moving forward” to do good for all.
That seemed to sum things up, locally and nationally. But before Hawaii’s elections are forgotten, let’s take stock of the noteworthy.
We Voted. Sure, 58.3 percent of registered voters is a long way from the massive turnout for statehood in 1959, and it’s a couple percentage points lower than in the last presidential election. But total registration of 749,917 people out of a state of 1.4 million is a (slight) improvement over recent elections, and the fact that more people are choosing to vote absentee rather then wait in line (especially with faulty ballot scanners) is a good sign.
We Didn’t Vote For OHA. As usual, more than 100,000 voters left the Office of Hawaiian Affairs part of their ballot blank. No other statewide race attracted anywhere near the apathy that OHA seats inspire.
OHA Will Become Even More Interesting. I don’t know what kind of OHA trustee Kelii Akina will make, and I will personally miss the trustee he defeated, Haunani Apoliona. I suspect Akina will be marginalized by most of the other eight trustees. But, given his penchant for self-promotion and his vow to challenge OHA’s financial practices and “race-based nation plans,” he will disrupt an agency long known for continual disruption.
Incumbents Are Near Impossible To Defeat. This has almost always been true, but the races for three Honolulu City Council seats and most seats in the Hawaii Legislature this year were lopsided. Many neighbor island council races, however, were fairly close and longtime incumbents on Kauai and Maui lost their jobs. Ironic, then, that council seats are term-limited but legislative seats are forever. Unless a candidate belongs to the Republican Party.
Hawaii’s Incredible Shrinking GOP. What must state Sen. Sam Slom and Rep. Feki Pouha (and Djou) be thinking when the country goes red and yet Hawaii bleeds red? And how is it that nearly 40,000 people voted for Angela (“Cancer Free”) Kaaihue for Congress? Yes, GOP congressional candidates usually draw tens of thousands of votes no matter how obscure they may be. But Kaaihue was publicly denounced by her own party’s chair — and for that matter, the chair of the other party, too.
Charles Djou Is (Probably) Done In Politics. He’s bright, he’s personable, he’s ambitious, he’s tireless. But he’s also 0-4 since 2010. Like Mufi Hannemann for governor, Linda Lingle and Ed Case for Senate, and Frank Fasi for anything but mayor, Djou is one of Hawaii’s talented politicians who can never rise to the next level. The common denominator is usually party affiliation.
Libertarians Will Always Be With Us. The chair of the local party says that, despite winning no races, the Libertarian Party of Hawaii managed to gather enough votes to retain ballot status for the next five elections. There were more than a dozen Libs on the 2016 general election ballot and a couple of Greens, too. Is a viable third party someday possible? Probably not, but I’m glad they keep trying.
Super PACs Will Always Be With Us. Unless SCOTUS decides to overturn Citizens United (ha-ha-ha!), we will continue to see our mailboxes stuffed with campaign literature at election time. While some mailers can be useful (Ann Kobayashi sent out “Ann’s Everyday Easy Cook Book,” which includes a tasty recipe for Honey Sriracha Grilled Chicken Thighs), super PAC mailers calling Djou a tea partier and Caldwell unfit for office were ugly.
People Like Pot. But not in Hawaii, based on multiple failures to decriminalize or legalize it in the Legislature. Took us forever to get medical marijuana dispensaries, too. But more and more states are going “green” and it’s just a matter of time. Hint to legislators: $$$$.
Charter Versus Constitutional Amendments. The outcome of Honolulu’s 20 charter amendment ballot questions were determined by which answer (yes or no) got more votes. But the state’s two constitutional amendments were determined by taking the “yes” votes and then dividing that figure by the combined number of “no” and “blank” votes. That’s just dumb.
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