Editorial | On Politics Jean King was Hawaii’s liberal maverick to the end By Richard Borreca Nov. 26, 2013 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Jean Sadako King died Sunday, 12 days before her 88th birthday. She was a former lieutenant governor and a member of the state House and Senate. King was one of the definitive women of Hawaii politics, because her quick upward climb showed a path and place for women in local politics. Although her campaign to unseat then-Gov. George Ariyoshi failed, King helped carry on the liberal, environmentally aware wing of the Democratic Party. As much as Ariyoshi was about consensus, King was about leading a progressive platform for change. When Ariyoshi went across the state Capitol to sign his papers to run for reelection, King, as lieutenant governor was the election official who took his paperwork. With the entire Capitol press corps watching, King then got up to shake his hand, grasped it firmly, and said, "I would like to formally ask you for a debate." "She was very independent and very smart. She had a mind of her own. She would be called a maverick. Jean King was very liberal and she was ahead of her time on women’s issues," recalled Lloyd Nekoba, who worked for her when she was lieutenant governor. Charles Freedman, who also worked for King, said she was one of the first public officials to open up state government with some of the early state sunshine laws. "Jean King fought for transparency in government before the term was in popular use. She led the way in passing our state’s early sunshine laws and lived by them in everything she did as a public official," said Freedman. King served as chairwoman of both the House and Senate environment committees and was one of the leaders in pushing for stricter environmental protection and land-use-control laws. What she did, said Nekoba, was to continue and then raise the debate on planning for Hawaii that started with the late Tom Gill, another Democratic lieutenant governor who unsuccessfully ran against the incumbent governor. "She took on everyone; we advised her not to run, but she ran. "Jean provided people an opportunity to take on the establishment, and she did it feeling we could win. She provided hope," Nekoba said. After her loss to Ariyoshi, King remained active in politics, although she did not run for office again. She launched the political careers of both Freedman and Nekoba, who have served as assistants to Govs. John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie, but more important, King was an example and a guide. Admirers found that Hawaii’s first woman lieutenant governor was more than the bright, articulate second-in-command. When told there was little for her to do, King focused her administration in support of homelessness, the environment and defending the Hansen’s disease patients who were being removed from Hale Mohalu. "Jean King for all the graciousness and grace, she was a fearless person; she knew the odds were against her, but she always worked," said Freedman. If women leaders in local politics are finally part of the mix, much of it is because they can follow the trail Jean King first walked on. ——— Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous Story Manage PV growth to help ratepayers Next Story 801 South St. project is not 'workforce housing'