Tuesday, May 24, 2011


REPLY HAZY- TRY AGAIN: Political malahini can't get over how we seem to give our congress-critters (we stole that from somewhere) a lifetime appointment when we first vote them into office.

It's not just the usual American democracy-phobic system whereby incumbents use their power to accumulate daunting war chests, discouraging challenges, but a culturally driven respect for the kupuna paradigm that gives them an edge.

So on the rare occasion when one seat "opens up" it's a free for all with all the rats and vermin deserting whatever ship they're inhabiting to line-up for the move-up.

It just so happens that this year, when the music starts playing there will be at least two if not three extra chairs and everyone and their grandmother seems to be considering circling them.

Our now-open 2nd congressional district seat has, since the death of Patsy Mink, been a place where an also-ran for the senate or 1st CD can land, even despite the fact that they don't live in the district.

But since at least Dan Akaka's senate seat- and, if she decides to join the fray Coleen Hanabusa's 1st CD seat- is empty, the climbers all have their sights set on the grand prize leaving us an opportunity to send someone who actually lives in the district to D.C.

And because of all that-- and more- our own Kaua`i ex-senator Gary Hooser apparently has the inside track should he decide to grab for the brass ring.

The progressive's progressive Hooser's two previous runs for higher office- for US house after Mink's death and for lt. governor last year- were unsuccessful for many reasons.

First was the competition, all of whom are now either running for the senate, like current 2nd CD incumbent Maize Hirono and Ed Case, already in congress, like Hanabusa or otherwise occupied on another track like Lt. Governor Brian Schatz.

It was Schatz who was Hooser's main bugaboo the last two time as they split the progressive vote with Schatz pulling in more votes each time. This time there isn't another real progressive on the horizon giving Hooser the full share of that vote in what has been said to be arguably the most progressive district in the country.

The question is, if not Gary then who?

The other day Adrienne LaFrance of Civil Beat asked that question of a long list of primarily state legislators and Honolulu city councilpersons as well as, of course Hooser.

Hooser seemed interested saying:

"For me, you know my first priority is to serve the governor in the position he's appointed me to (as director of the State Department of Health's Office of Environmental Quality Control). That's really where my attention is right now. The office needs revitalizing and rebuilding and I'm committed to doing that. It's too early and there are too many factors for me to sort out.

"I have gotten calls and emails from a variety of friends and supporters, people who have supported me in the past, encouraging me to consider entering. Many would say that I'm a natural because I ran before. I actually live in the district. Serving in Congress would obviously be a great honor. But, for now, my focus is on rebuilding and revitalizing the OEQC... Definitely not ruling it out, but whether it's right for me and for the state at this time, I don't know yet."

The others are not exactly household names on the neighbor islands except for former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann who might stay out of the senate race if he thinks his wounds from the governor's race are too severe. But those same wounds might make him appear to be damaged goods to 2nd CD voters who were supposed to put him over the top last year but shied away after one too many blunders and a sort of "fed up with Mufi and his dirty politics" attitude reared it's head.

In addition to Hooser's "last man standing" tag- all those who beat him in the other two races being elsewhere occupied- Hooser also has the advantage of a ready made organization on each neighbor island and on the North Shore of O`ahu and, with Schatz out, he can pick up not just votes but progressive political operatives who said they liked Gary but were already committed to Brian.

Then there's the unique nature of the "ending in 2" election of 2012.

Many of those ready to "move up" come from the state senate where they reach the legislative ceiling. And usually when a congressional election comes in the middle year of their four-year term they can run for congress without activating the Hawai`i "resign to run" law, which is inapplicable in federal elections.

But this is reapportionment year. After the census, lines are redrawn and the senate is divided into two year terms and four year terms to maintain staggering and everyone must run meaning no one can run for congress and, if they lose, return to the senate.

Although as LaFrance points out reapportionment might force two members of the legislature into one district making congress tempting, it would take someone who was already predisposed to a congressional run to take advantage of the "crisis equals opportunity" situation.

As far as county pols there are a few high profile Honolulu councilmembers like Chairman Nestor Garcia but he LaFrance quotes him as saying "I'm not considering it now."

And certainly none of the three neighbor island mayors- much less councilmembers- even have the name recognition much less the organization... much less the motivation.

On the other hand Hooser's most successful activity in the lt. governor's race was his "Who Is Gary Hooser" campaign where, reportedly, he spent most of his capital- both political and monetary- last fall.

Another question to ask of potential candidates is whether they have school age kids. A job in Washington may be off the table for many- or at least those who want to keep their marriages intact.

The one big question for Hooser is whether he will give up his job as head of the State Department of Health's Office of Environmental Quality Control to run. He has seemed excited at the prospect of working in the area of his passion as the top environmental enforcer in the state.

But you don't get politics out of your blood that easily and Gary, if he has anything, has the fire in the belly to run again someday.

Is this that someday? Knowing that this kind of opportunity where all things seem to line up in his favor come around once in a lifetime it may just be an opportunity Hooser can't ignore.

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