POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 24, 2011
If Democrats and Republicans were at the same party, you could be sure that if Walter Dods, former First Hawaiian Bank chairman and CEO walked in, he would be shaking hands with the Democrats first. Then he would march over to the Republicans to tell them about how his candidate (George Ariyoshi, Dan Inouye or Dan Akaka) was going to eat them for lunch.
Today, if First Hawaiian's new boss, Don Horner, goes to the party, nobody knows where he will sit.
"Its pretty kapakahi, I'm an agnostic," Horner chuckles when asked about his somewhat eclectic pattern of political support.
Finding out as much as possible about Horner is the new news media sport in town because besides running the state's biggest bank since 2004, Horner is also chairman of the state Board of Education and a member of the city's new transit authority.
As much as Dods is the hard-charging Democratic partisan, Horner is the quietly passionate independent. In an interview last week, Horner explained, "If you came with me into the voting booth, you would see a person who really doesn't like labels. I do my best to vote for a person's character, I look at their heart and character."
To varying degrees, Horner has backed candidates from both parties. In 2008, he gave U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., $1,000 and gave the Barack Obama campaign $4,600.
Horner said he had forgotten about the McCain contribution, speculating that he might have been asked by a friend to contribute.
"I gave to Obama because he is a native son and I am appreciative that he came to Hawaii. I think he cares about Hawaii, and anybody who cares about Hawaii, I care about," Horner said.
Today Horner is strongly supportive of Gov. Neil Abercrombie, whom he calls a friend.
"He is someone I admire immensely," Horner said. "He and I are passionate about education and that is why I will serve him faithfully when it comes to education. I think he will make an outstanding governor and I contributed to his campaign."
Since 1998, Horner has given Abercrombie $4,500. In testimony to his bipartisan nature, Horner gave Lingle $7,000 in her campaigns for governor and did not contribute to Democrat U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono's campaign when she ran for governor in 2002.
Horner says he supported Lingle on many issues, but when it came to her strong stands on splitting up the state school system, "We had some pretty interesting discussions.
"I admired her commitment, because I think she was a very bright person and I think she made a good governor," Horner said.
Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann also has been supported by Horner with campaign donations from 2003 to 2009 totalling $6,000. Others whome Horner has supported include the past congressional campaigns of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, state Sen. Clayton Hee and former state Sen. Ron Menor. Horner gave $2,000 to former President George W. Bush and $3,500 to former Rep. Ed Case.
Core values and consistency are what Horner says he looks for in a candidate. The values don't have to be specifically his values, but he isn't impressed with candidates who waiver.
"I was talking to the governor recently and he was absolutely correct: The old-style Democrats stood for a certain set of core values," says Horner.
His job now is to translate those values into a new and improved school system and Honolulu's huge new rail plan.
Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at email@example.com.