Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Governor's future looks brighter with Oshiro

By Richard Borreca


When even your political foes say they will miss you, it says a lot.

State Rep. Blake Oshiro leaves the state House next month for the office next to Gov. Neil Abercrombie's on the state Capitol's fifth floor.

Earlier this week, Abercrombie picked Oshiro, 41, as the new deputy chief of staff, to help bring some much-needed stability to his administration.

"This is a huge loss for the House — Blake was one of the few who could bring unity to our factions. He is articulate, he understands the laws we are passing and people trust him," said one lawmaker, who opposed the Democratic majority and requested anonymity.

Abercrombie, who has been repeatedly criticized for not telling the public and Legislature about his state government plans, held a news conference to announce that Oshiro would replace Andrew Aoki as deputy chief of staff. Aoki had been an architect of Abercrombie's strong election campaign last year, but had little experience in dealing with the Legislature.

Abercrombie proposals floundered during the session, even though for the first time in eight years Democrats controlled both the Legislature and the Governor's Office.

Oshiro said he hopes to contribute some of the needed skills to halt Abercrombie slide in the polls.

"Seeing the problems associated with the approval rating, I thought there is a lot that can be done to help improve it," Oshiro said in an interview this week.

Oshiro said when first asked he didn't want the job. But both Bruce Coppa and Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz repeatedly asked him to consider the job. Coppa is the new chief of staff, replacing Amy Asselbaye, a long-time Abercrombie aide, who also left last month.

"At the end of the day, I agreed with them, I should step up and do my part — it is my belief in the governor.

"I believe in his vision in growing the economy, sustainable energy and transforming government," Oshiro said.

"I find him engaging and passionate; it is something I respect," Oshiro said of Abercrombie, his new boss.

Oshiro has been an attorney for 15 years and a legislator for 11. He leaves the House as Democratic majority leader. His biggest accomplishment was repeatedly steering the civil unions bill through the House until it was signed into law earlier this year by Abercrombie.

If you ask, Oshiro says he is gay, but explains that the civil unions bill is a matter of civil rights for all people and not an issue of help for a specific group. His low-key dedication earned him the Japanese American Citizens League's Distinguished Service Award and the state Bar Association Champion of Social Justice award.

Next year at the Legislature, Oshiro sees himself helping to both explain Abercrombie policies to lawmakers and then actively pushing them through the process.

Oshiro said that during the last session, the Abercrombie administration was not "aware of how much nurturing you need to pass legislation. It just doesn't happen; you have to constantly massage and mold it."

Oshiro warned, "There are a lot of trap doors that can spring under you and a lot of springboards that can pop open out of the blue, and you need to know the process and the people in order to anticipate these actions."

It will be Oshiro's job to make the Capitol less of a haunted house and more of a place where Abercrombie will find people saying "welcome home."

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at

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