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Candidates dump bird in hand to chase feathers in bush

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The more you hear candidates for lieutenant governor talk about why they want the job, the more you wonder why they’re running for it.

In most cases, they had far more power to affect the issues they promote from the jobs they’re leaving to seek the state’s mostly ceremonial No. 2 position.

State Sen. Norman Sakamoto’s website says that as lieutenant governor he "would like to take on education as his prime responsibility, if the next governor sees fit to use him that way."

To run for LG, where the current occupant couldn’t get a meeting on Furlough Fridays, Sakamoto is stepping down as Senate education chairman, which made him one of the half-dozen most influential people in the state in setting school policy.

And he didn’t have to wait around for the governor to see fit to use him; to the contrary, the governor can’t get much done in public schools unless the Senate education chairman sees fit.

Similarly, state Rep. Lyla Berg is giving up her spot as vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee to run for LG on a platform that leans heavily on schools policy.

State Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, who lists reducing violent crime by 40 percent as one of his issues, is giving up the House Judiciary chair, a far more influential platform on the matter.

Gary Hooser, who resigned as Senate majority leader to run for LG, says he’d use the office for "the power of the soapbox, the power to convene and the power to shine a light," but he had more real authority to do those things as majority leader.

The only leading Democrats not giving up more powerful jobs to run for LG are Brian Schatz, who was near the end of his term as Democratic Party chairman, and state Sen. Robert Bunda, whose influence in the Senate waned after he was deposed as president.

The undercurrent, of course, is that the winner could be our next governor, and in the recent Star-Advertiser poll, the 37-year-old Schatz led the pack ahead of Sakamoto, 63, Bunda, 63, and Hooser, 56.

The voter logic seems to be that if they’re hiring somebody to sit around for as long as eight years waiting for a promotion, they may as well go with a candidate young enough to have prime years left when the time comes.

David Shapiro can be reached at or


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