comscore Democrats in a train wreck, GOP looking for a train | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | On Politics

Democrats in a train wreck, GOP looking for a train


This is the time for aspiring, upwardly mobile politicians to shake off the summer doldrums.

Instead it appears both Democrats and Republicans are hovering between stasis and dormancy.

Stasis means everything just flows out like water seeking its own level. Stasis means nothing is moving, as in "after years of pushing for reforms, the state Democratic party has moved into stasis."

Dormancy is a state of quiet with a chance of revival, as in "Hawaii’s Republicans are wondering if they can revive their years of leadership under former Gov. Linda Lingle."

One of the interesting internal searches under way within Hawaii’s Democratic Party is where they find a standard bearer if U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa decides to jump into the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka.

Hanabusa is toying with the race and says she won’t make up her mind until next month. Even she, however, is stumped as to what candidates would rise up to hold the congressional district for the Democrats.

Clearly it is a political district of some concern because Republican Charles Djou held the seat for six months and it is expected that if Hanabusa jumps, Djou will be back in the campaign. He is a bright, articulate and well-organized Republican who would be a strong challenge for a Democrat, even in a historically Democrat state.

Democrats privately are saying that they can make an argument for Hanabusa to stay in the U.S. House because they don’t have a strong candidate assured of beating Djou.

Democrats are worried that Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who after winning office said he would exert strong local leadership within the Democratic Party, has been nearly invisible.

"Gone are the days of the ‘firebrand’ or ‘furious’ Neil; now it’s ‘pay back, this time it’s for real’ to the state that gave so much to him," complained one party leader who asked not to be quoted by name.

"Now he’s sticking it to the unions that put him over the top last year, the HSTA, HGEA nurses unit, and finally the thousands who also put him over the top last year … What happened to our Neil? We want him back," said the grassroots Democratic organizer.

Over on the GOP side, there must be a recruiting vacuum. While Abercrombie is fully engaged in a public relations train wreck, the Republicans have found no one outside of paid staff to question the governor’s actions.

Abercrombie’s first six months have been a war against his own political base as he alienated unions and senior citizen public workers by threatening to tax pensions; then he launched a war of words against the Pro Bowl, picked fights with the rank and file members of the HGEA nurses bargaining unit, summarily asked for the resignations of duly appointed board and commission members, and now is in a nasty labor fight with public school teachers.

If the governor has launched a fusillade against both his feet, now is a good time to bring out a logical alternative.

To do that, the Republicans need a credible candidate who can run in 2014, just like how back in 2001, the GOP had an organized and competent Linda Lingle to return the volley from then-Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Instead, the GOP seems to be inching toward either the tea party or irrelevancy.


Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at

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