In Hawaii politics, there are no set rules for how the governor and lieutenant governor view each other.
They can function as partners for the public good or view each other as a menace to society; the two will choose a path and that course then becomes the relationship.
Hawaii has had governors and lieutenant governors who break out in hives at the mere mention of the other. Gov. John Burns wanted Kenneth Brown as his LG, but instead he got Tom Gill, who eventually ran against him. The same happened with Republican William Quinn, who was opposed in the primary by his Lt. Gov. James Kealoha. Lt. Gov. Jean King ran against Gov. George Ariyoshi and lost. But Ariyoshi, who had been helped in his gubernatorial campaign by a strong relationship with Gov. Burns, returned the favor when Lt. Gov. John Waihee ran and was helped by Ariyoshi.
Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie has a career marked with many loud and long-standing quarrels, but he trusted and got along with both his LGs, Brian Schatz and Shan Tsutsui.
“I made it a point to have Brian and Shan connected to everything we were doing,” said Abercrombie in an interview. “From department heads to Cabinet meetings. It was like I had an extra hand.
“I thought they were both great politicians and I had ambitions for them both.”
None of that goodwill and grace touches the rocky existence between Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
Ige denied it, but Honolulu Star-Advertiser sources said Ige ordered officials and state agencies not to work with Green, who was conspicuously missing at the governor’s near-daily coronavirus briefings, even though Green, an emergency room doctor, was named by Ige as liaison between the state and health-care community.
Ige already has a reputation for not sharing. He iced out Tsutsui, who was lieutenant governor for Ige’s first term.
Although Ige and Green said they were a team, they quickly clashed when the coronavirus pandemic forced the state to make major unpopular policy changes. Green called for greater social distancing, more testing and stricter ways to stop the disease.
Green’s message was aggressive and he refused to back down.
“Can you imagine for one second that I’m not going to fight for one second to save lives?” Green asked in testimony last week before the Big Island County Council.
“I do my best to share what I think will save lives, and if they don’t accept that, I share it with the entire planet and then they catch up later. … I refuse to not be heard.”
That stood in contrast to Ige, who had been criticized for reacting slowly, with indecision and lacking firm, broad public controls against the virus.
After reports of Ige going passive-aggressive against Green, there was an immediate social media reaction against Ige, forcing the governor to have a long night meeting with Green. Afterward, Green said, “The governor and I had a very constructive meeting to clarify my role in the COVID-19 response and I greatly appreciated it. Our styles, as people know, are somewhat different. He is a smart, deliberative engineer and I am an emergency room doc. I expect these differences in style and approach will complement each other as we fight to stop the virus together.”
At best, a shaky truce that is likely to rupture.
For Ige, his only path forward is damage control, while for Green, who wants to win the governorship in 2022, his control panel is showing, “All systems go, clear for take-off.”