Chad Blair: You Think Ige Is Bad? At Least He Isn't Cuomo - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Is there any elected official in our islands more unpopular than David Ige?

When Civil Beat and media partner Hawaii News Now last polled that question — about 10 months ago, not long after COVID-19 struck — 54% of folks surveyed held a negative opinion of the governor while only 1 in 5 people viewed him positively.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, reporting in February 2020, cited a Morning Consult poll that found Ige tied with Connecticut’s governor for the lowest approval rating, at 32%.

Even as Hawaii is now experiencing some of the most promising developments since COVID-19 turned our world upside down starting one year ago — new cases in just double-digits, an expanded vaccine rollout, tourism arrivals ticking upward, a greater reopening of businesses — Ige still has plenty of haters.

One of our readers posted this comment on a story Thursday about Ige announcing that he no longer had to furlough or lay off state workers, thanks to the latest federal bailout: “Ige’s past statements about potential furloughs is just verbal posturing and nothing else designed to convince the citizens that he is serious and doing something.”

Others continue to blame the governor of the Aloha State for crashing the local economy through his executive orders on staying at home and tight travel restrictions, and for generally being perceived as a weak leader.

And yet, developments over the past few weeks nationally just might lead us to reconsider Ige’s leadership. Consider the following:

  • Andrew Cuomo, Democrat of New York, has gone from being a hero via his masterful, award-winning press briefings on COVID-19 to a man accused of sexual harassment and of hiding data on nursing home deaths. Top Democrats in the Empire State are calling for his resignation while other officials are investigating or looking to impeach.
  • Gavin Newsom, Democrat of California, was similarly praised for his prompt response when the pandemic hit the Golden State. Now a recall effort has garnered some 2 million signatures driven in part by his having been caught dining indoors with friends at a chic Napa Valley restaurant in defiance of his own executive orders.
  • Greg Abbott, Republican of Texas, faced criticism in February over his poor response to winter storms that left millions without power and killed at least 30 people. Abbott, who has been mocked for wearing disaster casual attire and chastised for lifting the Lone Star State’s mask mandate too soon, may now face a field of competitors that could include actor Matthew McConaughey in 2022.
  • Brian Kemp, Republican of Georgia, has gone from being a major supporter of Donald Trump to the former president’s No. 1 target for a GOP primary defeat next year. Trump wrongly blames Kemp for his loss to Joe Biden and the flipping of the Peach State’s two U.S. Senate seats that made Democrat Chuck Schumer majority leader. Kemp has also been heavily slammed for reopening the state economy too soon.
Gov. David Ige may not be popular in Hawaii, but he’s a lot better off than Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Scandals Ebb And Flow

Are U.S. governors that bad? Not necessarily.

Governing, the nonpartisan news, insight and analysis website about state and local government, occasionally surveys the status of scandals in the governor houses.

In 2016, for example, it reported that incidents “continue to ebb,” especially as compared to the period between 2008 and 2010. That was “a particularly sticky time” for governors, Governing said, and included the following misconduct:

  • New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat and former tough-talking attorney general, patronized a prostitution ring run by an escort service. He soon resigned.
  • Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he disappeared for six days. In fact, he was visiting his mistress in Argentina. Sanford’s wife later divorced him and the relationship with his mistress ended.
  • Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted of trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat and imprisoned. Trump commuted the Democrat’s sentence last year.
  • Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, suffered from the following, according to the Las Vegas Sun: ethics investigations, inept appointments, “getting chased by the media during outings with women other than his wife, a messy and public divorce, a vitriolic relationship with lawmakers” and accusations he spent little time working. He was defeated in the primary running for re-election.

There are other recent examples of governors involved in scandal including Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey, Democrat John Kitzhaber of Oregon, Republican Robert Bentley of Alabama and Republican Robert McDonnell of Virginia.

But there are also a lot of good governors current and former, including Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (now representing Utah in the U.S. Senate), Jay Inslee of Washington state, John Hickenlooper of Colorado (also now in the U.S. Senate), Larry Hogan of Maryland and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. And three of our most popular presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Ronald Reagan, were former governors.

Governor David Ige announces his nomination of Judge Todd Eddins for Hawaii Supreme Court. October 23, 2020
Gov. David Ige may be viewed more favorably in time. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Yes, Gov. Ige’s watch has included the Mauna Kea standoff, the false missile attack alert, several natural disasters, several questionable Cabinet appointments and a lot of other public officials who think they could do a much better job than him. It would be a tough draw for any governor, even without a pandemic to deal with.

But Ige continues to go to work every day, to keep his head down and to do what he thinks is best for the people of Hawaii whether they like it or not. Barring the unexpected, he may be viewed more favorably in time.

Read this next:

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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

Latest Comments (0)

Chad, where do you get these ideas. Ige has  failed us. He doesn't get a pat on the back for not having a sexual assault scandal.  

Mr_Common_Sense · 1 year ago

Ige was initially elected because he was better than Abercrombie.  Voters were hoping for something much better, but they didn't get it.

sleepingdog · 1 year ago

If we are just trying to be not as bad as other states, then sure. If we want the best for Hawaii, then we need far better than Ige. Just because there are bad elected leaders elsewhere does not mean we also want bad elected leaders here. Take some pride and demand capable leaders that are invested in improving Hawaii.

Jay · 1 year ago

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