For the next four years, Hawaii faces consequential challenges that will require wise, farsighted decisions by the state’s top leadership.
Of the four candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot for the office of governor, there is no question that the incumbent, David Ige, is the best choice to lead the state for another term.
Experience and expertise will matter in dealing with some of the questions the governor and lieutenant governor will confront on Day 1:
>> How will Hawaii reverse a dire shortage in affordable housing? Will the state and city leverage the potential of development through the rail corridor to narrow the housing gap?
>> Can the state make progress on the persistent homelessness crisis, with its attendant social ills? And what can be done to speed the recovery of Hawaii County, with many left newly homeless by Kilauea’s eruption?
>> How will Hawaii manage its tourism-based economy while it develops employment opportunities yielding a more sustainable living wage?
Many of these are longstanding concerns, but there are near-term decisions that will have a lasting impact in all these areas.
A permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope — a project that could be part of new, science-based educational and career opportunities — is awaiting a final ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Whatever the court decides, the community divisions generated by TMT will take years to heal. The governor’s leadership will be crucial in setting an optimal, peaceful course forward.
Ige’s experience provides the most solid foundation for continuity in reaching the goals he set out for his first term. His running mate, state Sen. Josh Green, a physician, further enhances the team.
Green’s proactive, self-directed approach should bring strong, focused leadership to the lieutenant governor’s office.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser endorses Ige and Green in the general election, believing that the governor can serve a second term with a clearer vision and a more creative, assertive approach to the job.
Some of that already has been evident since the launch of the election cycle. Ige upped his game for this race, honing his campaign skills in a contentious primary, with a sharper presentation of his administration’s programs.
The voter should anticipate with interest the scheduled debate Oct. 29 on KITV between the governor and his GOP challenger, Andria Tupola. Ige declined an earlier televised forum on KHET that featured Tupola, Green candidate Jim Brewer and nonpartisan Terrence Teruya.
Ultimately, none of Ige’s opponents have the breadth of experience needed for the top job. The most experienced is Tupola, the minority leader in the state House, who has two terms in the Capitol under her belt.
Tupola, a 37-year-old former music professor, got off to a disconcerting start because of discord with her Republican running mate, Marissa Kerns, who has a more right-leaning agenda. But the real problem is that, at this stage in her career, Tupola doesn’t have the experience to run an organization as large and complex as state government.
Owing to his years in the Legislature as well as his first term at the helm, it’s Ige who can more assuredly steer the ship.
Still, Tupola stands out among Hawaii’s GOP leadership for her positive energy and willingness to engage audiences on difficult public issues. Voters, especially Republican ones, should hope that Tupola will remain involved in public service. Hawaii’s Republican Party sorely needs someone with her political skills.
In fact, Ige should learn from Tupola’s ideas about the importance of community engagement, which could help him chart a path out of some larger problems.
He has gotten better. The governor was out in front with the state’s response to the Puna eruption and in the emergency response to the hurricane threats and the cataclysmic flooding this year. There has been incremental progress in some of his priorities, including improving the state’s crippled technological systems, the tax system in particular.
Ige has accelerated the state’s environmental move toward green energy on the policy front and advocated pointedly against the acquisition of the state’s largest utility by NextEra Energy. Broadly, he has run government with fiscal constraint, which is critical for a state with burdensome unfunded liabilities.
If he is re-elected, the governor will return to the fifth floor with a somewhat hostile legislative leadership below, one that broke ranks to back his primary-election rival. Green needs to be enlisted to help improve the relationship with lawmakers and to work cooperatively on common interests.
Having government dominated by one party is not ideal, but voters ought to be able to expect that state’s leaders will work collaboratively in the public’s best interest. If they succeed, Hawaii can hope for a productive four years ahead.