Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Lieutenant governor's job has potential -- for irrelevancy

By Richard Borreca


How do you decide?

There are six Democrats running for lieutenant governor. I bet you will see every one of the candidates' signs as you drive to work and by the time you arrive, you will not be able to recall any of them.

Save for friends and family, few voters sit around hoping one of the six is lieutenant governor.


Because no one knows what the LG does and those who do know don't care.

The lieutenant governor job is the small toe, the appendix, the wisdom tooth of Hawaii politics. It's probably not needed, but there it is and voters must pick one.

I asked former Govs. John Waihee and Ben Cayetano how to review the credentials, because both also served as LG.

Waihee jokes that when he was No. 2, his press secretary Chuck Freedman's job was "to make sure the media noticed me."

"Being lieutenant governor is the only job where you spend the entire day shaking hands, meeting people, going to lunches and dinners and have people ask whatever happened to you."

Both Cayetano and Waihee recall that their most important job as LG was running the state elections -- which the job no longer entails -- and both tried different ways to encourage voting.

"It was something specific that you could do to make things better," says Waihee.

"It was my most important duty," says Cayetano, adding that "frankly I'm not sure what the LG's responsibilities are today."

State law says the LG is there to replace the governor, oversee the Office of Information Practices, and file and record all administrative decisions and directives.

The LG also handles name changes. That's it -- for which you get a staff, security, chauffeur and $114,420 a year.

Cayetano says the most important issue is the LG's ability to get along with the governor.

"Waihee and I did not agree on everything, but without his cooperation there would be no A-Plus program," advises Cayetano.

Waihee adds that thanks to Cayetano's work, he also gets credit for A-Plus.

"If you fail, it is your mistake. If you succeed, you are part of the administration," Waihee explains.

Cayetano, however, recalls that an LG who is focused on an issue can create something without the governor's approval.

"Nelson Doi (former lieutenant governor under Gov. George Ariyoshi) created the Hawaii Crime Commission -- which Ariyoshi did not support -- through the LG's administrative rules," Cayetano said.

Waihee says the first group a new LG has to impress is not the public.

"The candidates say they are going to bring people together. Well, the first group they have to impress is the governor's Cabinet because these are the people who run everyday government," Waihee says.

If you get a chance to ask an LG candidate a question -- and with so many out there, there is probably one within walking distance -- Waihee says to ask them: "What special talent do you have for making people who are responsible for carrying out policy listen to you?"

Or you could ask how important sensory deprivation, invisibility and being ignored are to them.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at


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