Vicky Cayetano: What I Learned In My Run For Governor - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Vicky Cayetano

Vicky Cayetano is a longtime businesswoman, philanthropist, former First Lady and recent gubernatorial candidate. She is active in the community, advocating for small businesses, animal welfare, supporting the arts and other aspects of our community. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


Editor’s note: Today we welcome Vicky Cayetano to our lineup of regular columnists. We are delighted that Vicky is interested in continuing to contribute to the community discussion about important issues facing the state. As a longtime successful business owner, former First Lady and now a former political candidate, we think she brings readers a rich perspective on a broad range of topics. Vicky is also a strong supporter of women and the concerns surrounding women in the workplace and politics. So expect to see a number of interesting topics and people being raised up in this column. For this introductory piece, we asked her to reflect a bit on her recent experiences on the campaign trail.

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One of the things I learned in my run for governor is that it is an experience unlike any other.

While most people may see political races as a win or lose outcome, it is much more than that. I found that one gains so much from the process, which — win or lose — you can come out feeling like a winner even if you are not.

And while there are times you feel these tough blows that suck the life out of you, you are amazed to find yourself still standing. As the song goes, “I Will Survive.”

I also learned that I was not your typical candidate. Coming from the private sector as an entrepreneur who started a business 34 years ago, as a woman who had raised two children, I represented something quite different from what Hawaii’s political scene was used to seeing.

I believed then, as I do now, that this perspective combined with the insights gained from running in a gubernatorial race lend a unique viewpoint. Which is why I was delighted when the opportunity of writing a regular column for Civil Beat presented itself. 

With the primary election more than two months ago, it was time to take stock of the situation. While losing a campaign can never be a great experience, I felt a sense of satisfaction and gratification for what I lived and breathed through the past year. I was grateful for the people I had met “on the trail,” confident that something good would come out of it and determined to move forward and hopefully encourage others to consider public service. I also thought it would be interesting to share some of the hard things learned from my experience and those of other candidates who did not make it. It is a learning experience unlike any other.

It was without a doubt one of the most challenging experiences one could ever embark on. It is a combination of all your various life experiences packed into a short and incredibly intense timeline. You have the fear and uncertainty, you feel satisfaction when things are going well. Then you experience the frustration one feels when rejected in a relationship and, finally, it is the pain of losing after one has given their all.

The intensity is unlike anything else, and the difficulties are more dramatic than a roller coaster ride. These experiences are even more magnified when you consider that your family, friends and supporters are there sharing your pain. 

Vicky Cayetano was surrounded by supporters, friends and family, including husband and former Gov. Ben Cayetano, on primary election night. She writes that the campaign also takes a toll on everyone involved, not just the candidate herself. That’s something most people don’t realize or think about. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

I think an appropriate title to describe a campaign would be the title of an old Western movie from the 1960s, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” 

So, what is the “good, the bad and the ugly” in a campaign? Well, the good is obviously the purpose and the people a candidate runs for. You believe in your heart that you can be effective in bettering the lives of the people. The good is about the many volunteers who come out for you — who sacrifice time with their family for months or years helping a campaign, all because they believe in the candidate.

While people often say that politics and campaigns bring out the worst in people, you also see the good it brings out. The dedication you see in these volunteers, the loyalty they have to take on any battle on behalf of their candidate and the camaraderie among team members is both inspiring and uplifting. 

The bad has to be the social media comments and memes that play such a big role now in campaigns. The pseudonyms that people use to hide behind their ugly remarks and baseless criticism. Comments that target not only the candidates, but also their families. Comments that do nothing for an election and everything to destroy a candidate.

If we want to encourage people to run for office, if we want to restore the belief that public service is a noble cause, we must foster a different campaign culture, one that elevates discussions, not name-calling. 

Campaigns can be and must be a more positive process in our civic responsibility.

The ugly has to be what one experiences physically in a campaign. You find yourself morphing into a different body. The lack of sleep, the frequent eating of not-so-healthy foods and not finding time to exercise, all contribute to the added weight and inches in all the wrong places.

There should be a “before and after” campaign snapshot of us so we can see how candidates look at the beginning and end of a campaign. If we are honest, I am sure that it would include noticeable changes such as hair loss, bags under the eyes, extra inches and yes, that bug-eye look from the lack of sleep. 

It affects our family members, too. Keith Amemiya, candidate for lieutenant governor, shared with me how his campaign took its toll on the family. Let’s face it — reading negative stuff about someone you love is oftentimes more difficult than reading a negative statement about yourself. He also believes that social media is a tool that does not help the political process. It fuels the negativity in our culture and is part of the reason decent, everyday residents are turned off by politics.

Campaigns can be and must be a more positive process in our civic responsibility. Campaigning should be a catalyst to bring people together, to raise issues that impact our lives and to attract the next generation of leaders to the important work of public service. That will be hard to do though if we do not make changes to the current environment of campaigns.


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About the Author

Vicky Cayetano

Vicky Cayetano is a longtime businesswoman, philanthropist, former First Lady and recent gubernatorial candidate. She is active in the community, advocating for small businesses, animal welfare, supporting the arts and other aspects of our community. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


Latest Comments (0)

Ms Cayetano is a force to be reckoned with. But coming out of years in the business world straight at the governors office seemed like a reach too far to me.Had she run for mayor I would have voted for her without hesitation. And should she run for mayor I would again support her.

Roxie · 1 month ago

I hope Vicky runs again in 4 years.

enoughisenough · 1 month ago

Vicky Cayetano's insights on her run to the State Capitol are enlightening and illuminative. Vicky is an Olympian and Champion, totally committed personally and mentally focused to bring about change to better the lives of the people of Hawaii. Vicky embraced the values and principles of a true Olympian, to contribute to building a better and more harmonious State by integrating mutual understanding though a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.The Olympian Code of ConductCITIUS-ALTIUS-FORTIUSFaster, Higher, StrongerVicky gave her personal best. striving for personal excellence. "Less talk, More Action" Accountability, Responsibility, Transparency, Integrity and Trust.Vicky Cayetano has changed and improved Hawaii's political landscape. It is now our time to carry forward the wisdom shared by Vicky Cayetano, participate in the governmental process, promote culture, heritage, family values in the spirit of Aloha with respect and grace.

Clif_Hasegawa · 1 month ago

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