Hawaii Needs You To Run For Office - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Gary Hooser

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative, a former Hawaii state senator (2002-2010) and Senate majority leader (2006-2010).


Without a concerted effort to increase civic engagement, demand government accountability and elect new leaders at all levels, we are headed for hell in a hand basket.

Opinion article badgeThe issues before us are many — Covid-19, climate change, women’s rights, economic justice, environmental protection, systemic racism, health care, education, affordable housing, demilitarization and mass incarceration. All urgently need bold leadership and bold action — now.

The era of flowery speeches demanding forward-thinking, proactive solutions and then settling for incremental baby steps, or perhaps a study or a task force, is well past.

We are told that these issues are intractable, complicated and expensive to deal with. We are told the system is what it is and that nothing we do is going to make a difference. We are essentially told to shut up and sit down.

So, is that what we do? Do we just roll over, have another beer and give the keys to the 1%? Or do we organize, mobilize, reclaim our democracy and make our community a better place?

The truth is that all we have to do is show up and we win. Yes, it’s that simple. We don’t really even need more money than they have, we just have to show up. But we need to actually participate, not just whine and complain on social media.

Can you tell that I’m angry? Can you tell that I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more? Come on, people.  Let’s do this. We have 11 months until the primary election of Aug. 13, 2022.

In round numbers, we need approximately 25 credible candidates from across the state. Then we need 130,000 voters to show up and vote for them. Actually, voters don’t even have to vote in person. They just have to mail in their ballots.

We do this and we win. Bingo.

Picture yourself here: At Hawaii’s Capitol Building, home to 51 state representatives and 25 state senators. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In 2020, there were 832,466 people registered to vote in Hawaii. In the 2018 Democratic primary election for governor, fewer than 250,000 people voted. All we need in 2022 are about 130,000, and you don’t even have to leave your house.

The 25 candidates must be individuals who are rooted in their communities, who are willing to do the work, who believe in putting people and the planet first and who are okay with making a little bit of good trouble along the way.

Fifty percent plus one is the magic number for every decision-making body in government. Unfortunately, on issues pertaining to economic and environmental justice in particular, too often we fall short of a majority that will embrace change.

Just two new strong individuals elected to each of the four county councils would make a huge difference. Eleven new members in the state House of Representatives (out of 51) and four new State senators (out of 25) would be a game changer.

At the federal level, we need to elect a new member of Congress to represent the 1st Congressional District, someone who will support increasing taxes on the very rich and use the funds to expand healthcare, affordable housing and getting off of fossil fuel.

Last but certainly not least we need to elect a new governor, someone with vision, competence and integrity. Someone who, frankly, I have not yet seen throw their hat in the ring.

Identifying 130,000 of our friends and making sure that they actually mail in their ballots is a formidable feat, but it’s finding the 25 candidates that’s most challenging. By my count, we are about 50% there, but we need to close that gap as soon as possible. In my opinion, to run an effective campaign for 2022, candidates — especially unknowns — must declare before the end of this year at the latest.

There is no shortage of smart, hard-working people who share our core values. Many are currently leading non-profits, involved in advocacy groups, are small business entrepreneurs or perhaps are at the university. However, convincing them to run for election to public office is another story.

Most potential candidates are fearful of the unknown, of losing and of being a “public person.” Many will claim “their skin is not thick enough” or that they will not be able to please or to compromise or to resist speaking their mind. Some are afraid — perhaps rightfully so — of the personal or professional repercussions that may come with challenging the power of the establishment.

In my 16 years of experience serving in public office, while the apprehension is justified, the pluses of serving in public office far outweigh the negatives.

Please, you know who you are. You know deep down that you are needed. You know that you can do the job. And you know that the experience of helping to make positive change happen will be incredibly rewarding.

So, will you be one of the 25? And/or will you stand with the 130,000?

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About the Author

Gary Hooser

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative, a former Hawaii state senator (2002-2010) and Senate majority leader (2006-2010).


Latest Comments (0)

Term limits for Hawaii legislature would be a platform I'd vote for. Will a candidate dare intro that as a campaign point? Certainly the (D) party won't be backing him/her.

Chigao · 5 days ago

Gee, Gary, you were on the inside of Hawaii's political arena for 8 years, you were a player, a mover, and a shaker.And after 8 years, you came out angry, and now you want us to go through the same frustrating experience? I doubt you will get many candidates, unless they're sadomasochists.As the gumpster says, as long as the 1 party-political mafia gate-holders have a stranglehold on who gets to be a candidate, you will only see more of the same.I do like your tenacious spirit, but somehow you are going to have to charm those who are calling you a Marxist, and convince them that unless we initiate change soon, we are going to get reactionary Marxists taking over a broken political system. You got much work to do, Gary, stay on it!

Joseppi · 5 days ago

We don't need more money than them, but we still need a lot of money, and that's a problem.  Lots of community organizers, social workers, nonprofit sector people, etc. from all walks of life can't afford the price of a ticket to enter the political arena.  For the high profile races you can get small dollar donations from around the US, or if you're a Republican you can get rich friends to write thousand dollar checks.And the other thing is time.  Most people work full time time jobs or more, and probably have family obligations, so it's not like they can quit their two jobs and hire a nanny.Why we can't rally around voter owned elections bewilders me.  So what I'd suggest is seeing if the unions will financially support a couple (more?) candidates, or find the movement some other sugar daddy/momma to bankroll a slate of candidates.  And where are the nonprofit 501(c)(4) pacs?  Why are they all sitting on the sidelines?  ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NRDC, etc., etc., etc. have got to get off their collective war chests and fund state and local candidates - at least a little.

Frank_DeGiacomo · 1 week ago

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