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Monday, September 22, 2014         

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Lost somewhere in what Jim Leahey likes to call the "Manoa mists" is the reason for the University of Hawaii-Manoa Faculty Senate's vote to censure David Lassner, the new UH president.

The dilemma facing leaders in Washington is difficult enough to make observers wish for a return of the decade-old debate over WMDs, weapons of mass destruction.

The race for governor is confounding because of a number: 157,000. Politicians run with their heart, but in the background there is also a spreadsheet running, calculating and recalculating what you need to win.

Bob Awana is back in politics. The long-serving Linda Lingle adviser, called by the former GOP governor as her "campaign adviser for life," is working on the gubernatorial campaign of former GOP Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.

It was Bob Oshiro, the late Democratic Party guru, who explained how to do the math in an election. "You win elections by addition, not subtraction," Oshiro, who ran five winning governors' races, would say.

If the family budget looked like the state's budget, this would not be the time to panic — but it also is not the time to put in a pool or order up that case of filet mignon.

Hawaiian Electric may know a lot about generating electricity, but its profound fumbling of the solar energy issue has the potential to produce more than sparks.

Endings rarely go well in politics. State funerals and crushing defeats end political careers in ways filled with bad feelings. It is best to leave a winner. "Graceful exiters are highly motivated," Hawaii's own David Heenan writes in his book, "Leaving on Top, Graceful Exits for Leaders."

The Hawaiian islands linked with a power cable played a starring role in much of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's energy plans.

Republicans are firming up a public strategy to use in the race for governor. The historic rejection of Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie by fellow Democrats in the primary election empowers the GOP to argue for its candidate, former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.

Layoffs are coming next week for some of the state's public employees because it doesn't have enough money to pay them. On Aug. 22, the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. wrote its 4,000 employees explaining that it would "implement a systemwide reduction in force."

First it was all Dwayne Yoshina's fault that Hawaii's elections ran poorly. Back in 1998, politicians ranging from Colleen Hanabusa to Linda Lingle so howled at Yoshina's performance that the 1998 election was recounted, all 412,000 ballots.

David Lassner's $375,000 annual salary is a lot of public money -- but consider that on a good day, being university president fulfills the definition of being pecked to death by ducks, and on a bad day, it is more like living in a cage with a hundred weasels.

Mufi Hannemann is a politician who wears his passions on the outside for all to see. He is the American success story that should inspire kids across the state to say, "Yes, you can, now get to work."

Icons die hard. With an absurdly small margin of just 1,769 votes, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz beat U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa for the Democratic nomination for the open Hawaii seat in the U.S. Senate.

The high-profile debate about genetically modified food is not showing up as much as a political cause at the polls. Most of the Hawaii candidates who opposed GMO food or supported GMO labeling did not do well in the Aug. 9 primary election.

Democrats would be wise to approach the next three months cautiously because a lot could go wrong. They are moving into uncharted territory. This has never happened before.

From the rear-view mirror of the Abercrombie behemoth, David Ige must have looked like a joke. The 57-year-old Pearl City Democrat was just barely there. Where were Ige's principled stands, his fiery oratory and undying ability to outshout everyone in the house?

An Abercrombie victory or Ige win in Hawaii's race for governor is going to be just half of the story. Although this column was written before Saturday's Democratic primary, part of the outcome is already known.

As we hunker down for whatever Iselle and Julio fling our way, consider this a teachable moment. Not so much for hurricane readiness, because the long lines at Costco for SPAM, bottled water and gas already show how we did in the preparation department.

Local comedian Andy Bumatai is interviewing state Sen. David Ige while they drive along Ige's old Pearl City neighborhood.

For Gov. Neil Abercrombie, his looming defeat in the Aug. 9 Democratic primary would be historic; for state Sen. David Ige, his selection as the Democrats' candidate for the November general election would be nothing short of miraculous.

All across the state, the people are starting to speak. The mail-in ballots are pouring in and voters are walking into absentee polling centers. I visited the Kapolei Hale and Honolulu Hale absentee centers this week.

When political races get close in Hawaii, the big question turns to how the neighbor islands will vote. Oahu may have the most voters, but if candidates are running even in Honolulu, then the balance can tip with the decisions of folks on Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island.

Who knew that Gov. Neil Abercrombie driving a hack would be the big issue of the 2014 political season?

If you insist on walking into an actual polling booth for this primary election, Monday is your first chance, as that's when absentee voting starts. If you are a permanent absentee voter, your ballot should be on your kitchen table ready to fill out.

When he was in the state Senate, Ben Cayetano introduced legislation to abolish the office of lieutenant governor, saying it was useless. And that was back when the office had more duties than presiding over name changes.

Patsy Mink is in it representing the 2nd Congressional District. Neil Abercrombie, with shoulder-length dark brown hair, is representing the 1st, and Dan Akaka and Dan Inouye are beaming, looking marvelous. Peering over President Bill Clinton's shoulder is Al Gore, then vice president.

There is one overarching reason Brian Schatz is the senior senator from Hawaii: his age. Schatz is 41; his Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, is 63.

A punching bag is a suspended stuffed bag that is punched for exercise. A political punching bag is pummeled during election years by politicians to impress voters. The health of Hawaii's state budget is one of the most accessible political punching bags around.

A new political battle is being waged against those who voted for and against Hawaii's same-sex legislation. It was spawned by last year's special session legalizing gay marriage.

This week, the Washington-based Defense News is reporting the unthinkable: U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and U.S. Sen. John McCain agree on something.

Geothermal is one of those things that politicians love to love. The promise of a future secure through abundant energy comes through the essentially inexhaustible power from Earth's own core.

Somehow the Hawaii political scene has reinvented itself with the same cast of characters. It was just four years ago that Neil Abercrombie, Mufi Hannemann and James "Duke" Aiona were running for governor.

Happy Fourth of July. What better way to celebrate America's independence than by checking up on how we are doing with this democracy thing. There is some good news because of a decade-long effort by the League of Women Voters to get same-day voter registration.

If words were dollars, Honolulu would be watching live football in a stadium rivaling the Dallas monument built by Jerry Jones for his Dallas Cowboys.

Abercrombie to Ige: "Get a mirror." That was the take-away sound bite from last week's Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii forum featuring Gov. Neil Abercrombie and his Democratic primary opponent, state Sen. David Ige.

To learn the dynamic of the Democratic primary race for governor between state Sen. David Ige and Gov. Neil Abercrombie, I asked an Abercrombie supporter and an Ige backer what each saw at this week's Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii forum.

There are two takeaways from the hundreds of leaked emails in Pacific Resource Partnership's smear campaign against former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Colleen Hanabusa keeps her vocabulary regarding Iraq to one word: "No." Since 2002, the Oahu Democrat has opposed U.S. intervention in Iraq. Her position echoes the stance by Hawaii's 2002 congressional delegation, which back then voted against going to war.

Not since the long-stalled "Akaka Bill" was batted around in Honolulu in 2000 has there been a serious attempt for an arm of the federal government to come here to listen to the debate on Native Hawaiian recognition.

On one level you can look at 57-year old David Ige's political history and wonder why the Pearl City Democrat would ever even consider running for governor.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano is one who savors getting the last word. His 560-page autobiography, besides being a good read, is a long study in the feisty Democrat having the final say on countless political fights and grudge matches.

It was the geekiest political crisis of the year. The state Constitution requires that a law be passed every year authorizing the state to sell bonds and the state can only sell bonds up to the limit authorized.

One of the reasons Neil Abercrombie is governor is his early, enthusiastic embrace of social media. From announcing his campaign via Twitter to posts on Facebook and YouTube, Abercrombie's campaign was always in the moment.

Reaching back to his old teaching days at the University of Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie recently gave his Kauai audience a quiz.

The election needle twitched this week with a number of Republican candidates taking aim at legislators who were strong supporters of gay marriage during last year's special session.

When Oliver Lee was 39, he was easily the most controversial man in Honolulu. Because of him in 1968, more than 130 Honolulu police swooped down on to Bachman Hall to arrest 152 students and professors protesting the Vietnam War and Lee's denial of tenure.

For years, whenever former U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye was asked about Native Hawaiian sovereignty, Hawaii's most accomplished politician would deftly parry the query.

There was a time when a newspaper urging readers to watch television approached treason, but today we can just watch along safely inside the Internet browser and nobody strays.

Today is expected to be the beginning of a new future for the University of Hawaii, as the most significant educational institution in the state and one of the centers of knowledge in the Pacific gets down to picking a new leader.

If they follow the script, Hawaii's Democrats will end their state convention today with both calls for party unity and some chest bumping about how they will sweep the table in November.

Stephanie Ohigashi lives on Maui with three pit bull mix dogs and two cats. Apparently that isn't a complex enough balancing act, because just about two weeks ago, Ohigashi decided to run for chairwoman of the Hawaii Democratic Party.

On paper, this legislative session should have been a slam dunk for Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The state Legislature is one arena where victory should belong to the 75-year-old Democratic governor.

Three major players in the state Senate closed out the 27th Hawaii Legislature with plans that could be shaping the political future of Hawaii for decades to come.

Here's the tab: $97.2 million, $108.2 million, $138.8 million and $139.3 million. Those were the yearly operational losses for the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. since 2010.

If there was ever a time for George Cooper and Gavan Daws to redo their 1985 Hawaii best-seller, "Land and Power in Hawaii: The Democratic Years," it is now.

Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. secretary of defense, may not be on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, but his novel approach to spotting a problem has found a home at UH.

When you are 6'7", not every place is a perfect fit, but Mufi Hannemann thinks he has found it in the newly formed Hawaii Independent Party.

While presumably insisting on its impartiality, the Hawaii Democratic Party has obviously thrown its support to state Sen. David Ige in his challenge of Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The last time U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa saw the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, it was when Hawaii's senior senator seriously started to plan the nuts and bolts of his succession.

Something of a political fight is being waged over the state's $12 billion operating budget. This is not unusual — there never is enough money to close the state's open palms, and this is certainly the time of the year when state budget decisions are made.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Abercrombie's recollections of the death of Hawaii's senior Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, and the passing of a letter from Inouye to Abercrombie asking that U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa be appointed to replace him in the Senate.

The Big Island of Hawaii is where you go for earthquakes. With dozens of seismic events registering every week, the island is always shaking. In local politics, the seismic-rich environment is the state Senate.

Hawaii is again showing up as the most mediocre voting state in the country. The latest national report coming this week from the Pew Charitable Trust's Voter Performance Index shows that in 2012 not only were we the least inclined to vote, we were the worst in just registering to vote.

If the news of the day isn't worrisome enough to wipe that grin off your face, how about a poll? Actually, a new set of polls from Gallup show that Hawaii is moving from sunshine and smiles to being slightly disgruntled.

A lesson learned about Hawaii politics was taught one night back in the 1980s, while I was waiting outside a closed-door legislative meeting. The meeting was supposed to be open, but it wasn't, and as the lawmakers darted out the door I said to one, "Aren't you guys breaking the law?"

As anyone knows who pays the monthly rent, fills up the car or hopes that the leaky roof can be just patched and not replaced, times of no money are different from times of plenty of money.

The Monday endorsement of U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the coming Democratic primary shows that Obama is not afraid of picking one Democrat over another.

Hawaii may be getting more sophisticated, but we are not so blas that we shrug it off when the big dogs come to town. This week we are getting more than enough sniffs from our federal friends from Washington, D.C.

Somewhere in a Honolulu park there is a swimming pool pump rusting away, awaiting parts that aren't coming because the city doesn't have the money.

This spring, Hawaii's Democrats will do what they do best: evolve. The party meets in convention May 24 and 25 at the Sheraton Waikiki. There it is expected the Democrats will pick a new party chairman.

One of the last undeveloped parcels of land downtown could be the trigger for the urban renewal that the Chinatown and Aala Park areas so need. The project is the Liliha Community Center.

In the 1970s Kakaako was taken away from city governance by the state after a series of tiffs with former Mayor Frank Fasi. The decades of talk are now matched by what appear to be a solid decade of high-rise construction that will be capped with Honolulu's $5.5 billion heavy-rail system roaring through it.

Of all the illogical and bizarre modes for the state Legislature, the confirmation process for a member of the state Supreme Court is perhaps the closest one gets to recreating Alice in Wonderland.

Pat Saiki is settling in at the Hawaii Republican Party's Kapiolani Boulevard offices hoping for just a little magic. If her first time as party chairwoman did not lead to GOP victories, perhaps there is lightning the second time around.

If you are dealing with more than $12 billion, what happens with $33.5 million may not make much difference unless you are the one presented with the multimillion-dollar tab.

The elections are coming and that is a good thing. Yes, elections divide the community, force you to make decisions and almost always disappoint. But, who cares? What elections do is give us a great and booming economy.

The cries of a politician in trouble are unmistakable, and today, they are coming from Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie. On Thursday, in an interview with Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge, Abercrombie blasted his primary opponent, state Sen. David Ige, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for not approving Abercrombie's package of tax breaks for seniors.

For a few weeks in 2004, Hawaii was that rarest of presidential territories: a "battleground state." Back then, we had two separate statewide daily papers, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Honolulu Advertiser. They did polls and called the race for president a dead heat.

Perhaps the least noticed big change in local elections this year is happening with the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

On CNN last week, Wolf Blitzer was speculating about who is the one person most politicians want hustling votes for them. While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is quickly fading as a GOP luminary, the star power of former President Bill Clinton is growing brighter.

The state Senate's new 23rd District is one long postcard of Hawaii. Stretching from Haleiwa to Waiahole-Waikane, the district with its gorgeous beaches and picturesque towns and villages was redrawn by the 2010 Reapportionment Commission.

Just because Gov. Neil Abercrombie's state budget was delivered back in December does not mean that the final bill has been submitted.

After two decades of running and losing in primary elections, it is easy to see why former Mayor Mufi Hannemann wants to stay clear of those early races. By forming an independent political party, Hannemann takes himself out of the Democratic primary.

When he was running for governor, Neil Abercrombie promised major new state energy programs. His 2010 vision of a separate energy agency helped woo environmental activists to the outspoken Democrat's side.

Roll call: Gov. Gill? Gov. Fasi? Gov. Anderson? Gov. Heftel? Gov. Saiki? Not there, are they, although the early statewide polls all had Tom Gill, Frank Fasi, D.G. "Andy" Anderson, Cec Heftel and Pat Saiki beating the incumbent governor or heir-apparent lieutenant governor.

The new statewide Hawaii Poll is out and it answers a lot of questions about the state of local political races. The poll was taken between Feb. 1-11 by Ward Research for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.

What Kakaako needs is Wally Fujiyama. If somehow the ghost of the legendary, local attorney and political power broker could visit the dreams of the developers now insistent on transforming Kakaako into the Great Wall of Kowloon, the state would be in a better place.

If the political truism is that "all politics is local," then in Hawaii the corollary is that all local politicians are liberal.

In times of rain, besides an umbrella, what is a good thing to have? The answer is a big reservoir, holding all that extra water to use during the long, hot, dry summer. The suggestion to build a big dam is important because for once, Hawaii is not the weird state, out of step with the other 49.

If U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday had developed his thinking on the internment of Japanese-American citizens just a tad more, we might have a whole new view on civil rights in America.

If you live on Oahu, eight years from now you are likely to get a small raise. You will have slightly more money to spend after Dec. 31, 2022.

In Hawaii, it always is all about the land. The dilemma is that the land is so valuable it must be used; not to do so would be a waste. And the land has such grace and encapsulates so much potential that it must be preserved.

Every year, the state Legislature changes hundreds of laws. That comes after poking around in some 3,000 or so separate proposals. Everything is fair game; the Legislature has dozens of ways to allow it to pry into any subject and fiddle with the gears and levers of government.

Welcome to Sisyphean University, the Manoa branch. As you know, King Sisyphus was punished by the Greek gods because he was too clever. Gods condemned him to an eternity of pushing a rock up a hill, only to have the boulder escape and roll back down.

"I am able to report to you, our state government's financial house now stands on solid ground," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Although that was the sound-bite line from Abercrombie's 2014 State of the State speech, it also was the opening trumpet call for the 2014 governor's race.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's first State of the State speech in 2011 was his boldest and he is still digging himself out from the resulting fallout.

Speculation regarding former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann's political future is adding extra spice to the 2014 political year.

Those born in the mid-1980s and later, the fabled millennials, don't care much for political labels. A series of polls taken late last year show that about 45 percent consider themselves to be independents. Another 33 percent say they are Democrats and 23 percent say Republican.


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