Danny De Gracia: Josh Green Has Big Shoes To Fill As Governor - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

I have a confession to make: I’m going to miss outgoing Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

I have another confession to make. When former elected officials and insiders suggested to me during the Neil Abercrombie administration that they were planning to mount a campaign to primary him with then-Sen. Ige, I enthusiastically crossed party lines and voted for him.

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I’m sure I just made the collective heads of my conservative friends explode. “What, no Aiona and Ahu in 2014?” Nope.

People who have read my commentary over the years know that I’ve been one of Gov. Ige’s harshest critics, but it is precisely because I voted for him that I wanted him to be a hard charger in office. As we say in church: “Those whom I love, I discipline and rebuke.”

There is no need to revisit the controversies, missed opportunities, and upheavals of the last eight years. You know what happened, so do I. What’s done is done.

Gov. Ige is now “Uncle Ige” the distinguished elder statesman, and me and my fellow GenXers who voted for Ige can all wistfully hum “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” to ourselves during incoming Gov. Josh Green’s inauguration Monday.

I personally think that history will be very kind to Ige. He will be remembered as a soft-spoken, magnanimous governor who left office the same way he entered it, with polite, unassuming, gracious comments for the people of Hawaii. His handling of the Thirty Meter Telescope protests and even the Covid-19 pandemic will be characterized as curveballs that were beyond his control with which he did the best he could.

Lt. Governor elect Sylvia Luke and Governor elect Josh Green gesture after first ballot counts arrived at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Lt. Governor-elect Sylvia Luke and Governor-elect Josh Green gesture a heart on election night last month. They are set to be sworn into office Monday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

False missile alarm? Forgotten Twitter password? Meh. No North Korean ballistic missiles actually hit, no warheads actually exploded, and those of us who grew up in the Cold War have seen worse false alerts. Among locals, Ige will probably be remembered as one of their favorite governors, and mark my words, as few as six months from now many of those critics will be saying, “I miss Gov. Ige!”

But one thing that history won’t forget is that Ige was lucky in getting reelected. He could very well have been a single term governor like his predecessor, had it not been for him having the advantage of natural disasters at the time to look “governorly” and rebound in sagging polls. The world we are living in is very unstable, voters are extremely restless, and winning election with a big margin is no promise of a mandate to stay there.

Lessons For The Next Governor Of Hawaii

When I was 11 years old, my family got stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, because my father had been ordered to become the commander of the 633rd Medical Group for the run-up to Operation: Desert Shield in the Persian Gulf.

During the official change-of-command ceremony that followed, as part of military tradition, a guidon was extended by the outgoing commander to symbolize the passing of authority. My father, being overzealous to take his first big command, grabbed the outgoing commander’s guidon prematurely before the ceremony could be completed, and instantly received an angry rebuke from the 633rd’s wing commander who muttered through gritted teeth, “Not. So. Fast.”

As Gov.-elect Green takes office, I think someone better also whisper to him, “Not. So. Fast.” He has big shoes to fill when it comes to following Ige, and let’s be honest, all is not exactly well here in Hawaii. His first crisis to deal with includes the newest spill at the Navy’s Red Hill facility, and there’s a whole host of other inherited problems behind the scenes that he may or may not even be aware of yet.

Forgive me for saying this, but since his earlier election as lieutenant governor, Green has benefited from being able to play governor without the actual heavy lifting of being governor.

Green has always benefited from being able to point fingers at someone else, but now, all fingers will be pointed at him if something fails.

During the TMT protests, he got to play mediator and look good spending time at the mountain. When Covid was ravaging Oahu, Green constantly ran to the media and racked up headlines saying he talked to the governor about his “concerns.”

When Red Hill had a fuel leak in late 2021, Green got to take a picture of himself watching a video screen of Navy divers repairing the tanks while he had a facial expression on his face similar to what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had during the Osama bin Laden raid, as if he were actually supervising the divers himself.

Green has dominated the local attention economy as Hawaii’s celebrity doctor and as an ideas man, from his whiteboards populated with Covid numbers to being out front wherever there is any crisis. This is fine, but now he will be the one in charge, and Green has dangerously set a high benchmark of expectations by playing governor as the lieutenant governor.

Green has always benefited from being able to point fingers at someone else, but now, all fingers will be pointed at him if something fails. He won’t be able to run to a TV interview when the poo-poo hits the fan and say, “I have shared with the governor my concerns” – because now, he is the governor. He talked the talk as LG, and will be expected to walk the walk as the “G.”

This is not to say at all that Green is not up to the task. But he’s built an image that restless voters who put him in office are going to expect him to keep. It would have been better to pretend to be aloof on health issues, for example, than to come into office and have a public health crisis that you can’t solve, because the doctor-in-chief will be blamed for policy malpractice.

Not so fast, Gov. Green. You have big shoes to fill, and there are already people who are looking for you to slip up for a primary challenge in four years.

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

Actually, I heard they wear the same size shoe!

Zarf688722 · 1 month ago

If Josh Green had been LG in normal times, half the state's population would not have known who he was entering the gubernatorial campaign. But the pandemic & his medical background made him the media's go-to person whenever they wanted a "second opinion" on what the state health director & the epidemiologist was doing. This generated 2 very powerful things: It gave him name & facial recognition that was unprecedented for a LG.He used these interviews to play the role of a medical expert critiquing/2nd guessing the governor's appointees in the handling of the pandemic, w/o being held personally accountable for the results of the decisions that were made.These factors worked out to Green's favor in campaigning. But I wonder if they have also created unrealistic expectations for the voters. The man is not the most eloquent speaker. I have no idea how good he will be in drumming up public support for measures that lawmakers are indifferent to. When Green encounters his first rebuff, how will he handle it? Are his cabinet appointments capable of doing the job? And will he & Sylvia Luke be able to work together as a team?Green had better not be expecting a long extended honeymoon.

KalihiValleyHermit · 1 month ago

What a wildly off-the-mark assessment. Ige was a disaster. Indecisive and unable to come up with any "vision thing" as George Bush would say. What have been and are the big challenges for Hawaii?1) Homelessness.2) Ending tourism and restoring livability to the islands. Yes, ending it. Or at the very least reducing to manageable levels.3) Corruption in government. 4) Doing something about the cost of living, specifically housing.There are others, of course, but these strike me as the big 4. On all of these Ige was simply in over his head, or worse, AWOL. History will NOT regard Ige as some calming presence. It will look back at these 8 years as a chance to have done something important, and find him lacking the sense of urgency that was needed. He will be regarded as emblematic of all that is wrong with Hawaii politics and government. Timid, unimaginative and unwilling to consider any change of the status quo.

TannedTom · 1 month ago

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