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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 rborreca@staradvertiser.com.

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Publicbraddah wrote:
"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. Can you really trust a politician? When he initially ran for the 44th, he used a last minute tactic against his opponent that assumed Mazie Hirono had endorsed him when she had not. In the primary, Dems do not side with Dem candidates. It wasn't illegal, mind you, but I frown on such tactics.
on November 11,2011 | 04:59AM
bender wrote:
Despite Abercrombie's sinking popularity he's still likely to win reelection. No one will challenge him on the Deocrat side and I don't see anyone from the other side of the aisle strong enough to challenge him. The question is, will Abercrombie's new team be credited with the win even though he will likely win by default.
on November 11,2011 | 05:16AM
akuman808 wrote:
During his 11 years in our district, his record towards infrastructure improvements is dismal as the majority of current serving members of the state legislature. This sudden rush to pour millions to spurce up Hawaii for a week for APEC while for over a decade neglect has been the standard, expecting better results now moving up to the governors office will be more of the same, special interest driven as exampled by his only accomplishment, civil unions.
on November 11,2011 | 06:26AM
LemonySnickets wrote:
There might really be a "pot of gold" at the end of the "rainbow".
on November 11,2011 | 07:43AM
pakeheat wrote:
AHHHHHH YES! Rainbow color, is that the symbol for hmmmm you know what?
on November 11,2011 | 09:38AM
Kuokoa wrote:
Really? I think most people would not agree since Oshiro is the author of HB 444. THAT is still a very hot topic on the minds of the majority.
on November 11,2011 | 08:25AM
cojef wrote:
Tough one to call! Only accomplishment is the civil union bill. However the 4th paragraph in the article says a lot. If true, The gov has begun his move to get reelected. When ratings are low, if you want to seek reelection what is a better way to have fall guy, you can blame if future programs fail.
on November 11,2011 | 11:21AM
T_H_G wrote:
Blake Oshiro is, without a doubt, the most intelligent, brave, hard-working, and honest legislator we had in that building. He is a GOOD MAN - and anyone who lacks the heart to see the whole man, and get beyond his sexuality, needs to look within. The State of Hawaii is incredibly lucky that Blake has agreed to move up into this position.
on November 11,2011 | 03:46PM
palanik wrote:
Great news for Hawaii. These difficult times require sacrifice, leadership and vision. Our economy --visitor industry -- has languished far too long. Even before the advent of the Great Recession, it was incapable of responding to the evolving global economy, and incapable of connecting to our identity as an island society. Mahalo to Blake and the governor, they realize that the answers will not be found in the redundancies, and board rooms of the visitor industry --- but in our island communities.
on November 11,2011 | 05:24PM
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