Surprise! An Interesting LG Race

This column is about political conventions, ambition and charisma.

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May was the month Hawaii’s two major political parties held their conventions: the Republicans May 17, the Democrats May 24 and 25.

The Republicans highlighted former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, their odds-on favorite to be the party’s gubernatorial candidate in November, and former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, their equally good bet to be the GOP nominee for the congressional seat being vacated by Colleen Hanabusa.

The convention planners also marched their legislative candidates individually across the stage, allowing each a mini-demonstration of their own.

To return to the gambling metaphor, however, it seldom pays to bet on Republicans to win in Hawaii. But 2014 may be different. Last fall’s rush by legislative Democrats to pass SB-1, the bill that made same-sex marriage legal in Hawaii, offended social conservatives across the state. They also were enraged by “Pono Choices,” a sex-education curriculum being tried out by the state DOE.

Whether they show up to wave signs, canvas, contribute and run for office themselves will decide whether the GOP increases its membership in the Legislature.

Both Aiona and Djou can envision pathways to higher office: Aiona, if Mufi Hannemann can lure some Democrats from that party’s gubernatorial candidate; Djou, if Democrats vying for Congress beat up each other enough in the primary election. Name recognition also could benefit both Aiona and Djou. Still, it will be tough.

Now let’s consider the race for lieutenant governor. Why anyone would run for that office escapes me. The only reasonable answer is ambition for some office higher than LG. Of course, it also could be a four to eight-year taxpayer-subsidized vacation, including limo, security and a suite of offices, plus a high three years on which to base one’s state retirement. The office carries no constitutional responsibilities, not even occasional gavel-wielding, presiding or casting a tie-breaking vote.

Yet former University of Hawaii head football coach Dick Tomey looked at it, and state Sen. Clayton Hee, coming off perhaps the best legislative session of his long legislative career, is going for it.

But again, why? These are self-respecting men. So too is Shan Tsutsui, the current LG and a former president of the state Senate, where a man could wield a gavel, cast a vote and lead a caucus.

I make light.

Anyway, watch the LG race, if only because the winner gets a cushy, no-sweat job.

Finally, charisma. A friend of mine recently dismissed a political candidate for his lack of “charisma.” Oh, the “c” word. It may be the most overused criticism in the lexicon of water cooler political analysis.

In my experience, few who venture into politics possess it. Ambition, yes; ego certainly; conviction, often. But charisma, almost never.

That said, allow me to recommend you, dear reader, to (The Hawaii Pacific University website also will do.) In the search box, type in “Mayor Billy Kenoi, of Hawaii Island, at HPU’s Commencement.” There you will find charisma.

In 10 short minutes, Kenoi gave HPU’s graduates humor, passion, aspiration, wisdom and advice. Oh, sure, the last included some commencement staples, but local style.

“Remember,” said Kenoi, “No such thing: ‘no can. Always can.'”

All who heard, or watched, Kenoi’s speech, will remember.