Lieutenant governor race needs firefight spark
On his or her’s best day, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor can boast an agenda not much different than occupying the office on your worse day — little is going to happen. In the margins, however, those smart and lucky can find a lot of room to maneuver.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
On his or her’s best day, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor can boast an agenda not much different than occupying the office on your worse day — little is going to happen.
In the margins, however, those smart and lucky can find a lot of room to maneuver.
Ben Cayetano, perhaps the state’s most dynamic lieutenant governor, won his first statewide election in 1986, beating Honolulu’s former mayor, Eileen Anderson, by 43,000 votes.
Cayetano, according to a report filed by then-Star-
Bulletin reporter June Watanabe, declared victory in the Democratic primary lieutenant governor campaign by “readily admitting to wanting to be governor some day.”
Today’s field of Democratic LG candidates draws a fascinating mix of mid-career Democrats, all walking different paths, but none wanting to be stopped by being second in command.
Last week, longtime Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. announced he was running for LG; previously, the political speculation was that he would run for governor.
“I’m an open kind of guy, I’m willing to work with anybody,” he said. “Whoever becomes governor I’m totally willing. Let’s rock and roll, let’s shake hands and go,” Carvalho said in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report last week.
The 56-year-old former Miami Dolphins football player had been a Kauai County department director before becoming mayor in 2008.
The job for Carvalho and the two other major official candidates, Big Island Sen. Josh Green and Windward Oahu Sen. Jill Tokuda, is figuring out a way to stand out.
Back in 1986, Cayetano was able to light a political match by taking advantage of a staggering political mistake made by former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi’s aide, Vicky Bunye, who said that state leaders of Japanese ancestry had made a conscious effort to keep many Filipinos and Caucasians out of state jobs. It blew up in Bunye’s face, leading Cayetano to solidify his already strong AJA support. Cayetano kept the blaze going by calling Fasi “a political terrorist.”
As a practicing emergency room physician, Green is working to stress his medical background to make him the choice for voters looking for a compassionate activist.
“I have been much more a physician than a politician, that is what people want,” said Green in an interview.
There are few listed duties for the lieutenant governor — mostly just being available if something happens to the governor — so the three Democrats will struggle to find a specific campaign promise or program. Green, for instance, said his campaign has taught him that “100 percent of the voters want fresh leadership” and that he would work on homelessness and how it ties into Hawaii’s other problems.
Tokuda said what voters want is “a sense of urgency” from their leaders.
The former Senate Ways and Means chairwoman, who has been a critic of the city’s rail transit plans, admitted that she and Gov. David Ige, who is running against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the primary race for governor, have not been close.
At the same time, she has already won the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. Tokuda served as Hirono’s executive assistant when Hirono was LG.
But like the Green and Carvalho campaigns, none of that so far is going to light a match.
If there will be no firefight, it is likely to be a campaign of good thoughts and little difference.