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Hawaii's incumbents know how to buck trends

By Richard Borreca

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:45 a.m. HST, Nov 16, 2010



It is 2,500 miles away, and in terms of politics, Hawaii remains a land unknown to mainland trends.

The November election wave that brought in the Republican tide in the U.S. House also swept through the nation's state legislatures and governorship.

The National Conference of State Legislatures did the math last week and reports that Republicans control 3,890, or 53 percent, of the total state legislative seats in America, the most seats in the GOP column since 1928.

"The GOP will now control at least 54 of the 99 state legislative chambers, its highest number since 1952," reports the NCSL.

That switch means the North Carolina Senate is controlled by the GOP, the first time since 1870; the entire Alabama Legislature is GOP, the first time since Reconstruction. And for the first time ever, the Minnesota Senate is Republican -- although before 1974, the Minnesota Legislature was nonpartisan.

Hawaii, however, remains blue. The Legislature has been in the hands of the Democrats for 56 years.

Here in Hawaii, the decade opened with Republicans controlling 22 seats -- nearly 29 percent of the Legislature. That was the all-time, historic high for the party. Since then the decade has seen the GOP dwindle down to just eight, before this year's election brought it back up to nine.

It may not be that Hawaii's political fortunes shine on Democrats as much as it is that blessings are bestowed on incumbents.

The chances are that if you already hold a seat in the Legislature, after the next election you will continue to find the same place at the table.

Looking at the Hawaii Legislature's Class of 2000, the change has been incremental. A full 30 percent of the entire Legislature from 2000 still holds the same posts after the 2010 elections.

Of course there have been promotions. Brian Schatz is no longer in the state House; he's the lieutenant governor-elect. And while Ed Case no longer represents Manoa in the House, he is hardly out of sight or dismissed from political speculation.

The state Senate has retained 36 percent of the Class of 2000, but there have been some significant departures. Former Sens. Bob Hogue, Bob Bunda, Matt Matsunaga, Rod Tam and Norman Sakamoto all ran for higher office at some point and failed. Senate President Colleen Hanabusa is the exception, as she is now in Washington learning how to find her new seat in the U.S. House.

The big question for the state House now will be if the ultimate legislative survivor, Rep. Calvin Say (D, Palolo-St. Louis Heights) retains his speakership, a post he has held since 1999.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.






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