I’m getting this question fairly frequently and am thinking it’s important to describe the exact criteria I use that impact my personal decisions, as well as the basis for Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative endorsements – and likely most individuals and organizations who support and endorse candidates.
1) First of all the candidate needs to be on the radar. They need to actually have filed their papers to run. They also need to proactively express an interest in actually receiving support.
A surprising number of candidates do not even reach out to introduce themselves, let alone ask for support.
Once a candidate is “on the radar”, I do some basic googling and FaceBook research, and normally meet with them in person. I then step back and ask myself a few fundamental questions.
2) Can I trust that they will not lie, cheat, or steal?
3) Do they share my basic core values?
4) Are they receptive to learning and growing, or do they already know everything?
5) What do other friends and associates who have more direct experience with the individual have to say about them?
6) If they are elected can I trust them to vote for our shared values?
This is a tricky one. Each and every candidate is different. An issue important to me, may not always be important to them and I do not expect any candidate to be a rubber stamp, always voting as I might vote.
So, I look for litmus test issues/votes:
This years SB2510 relating to renewable energy (tree burning so-called firm renewable mandate) is one such issue. This measure was opposed by just about every single credible advocate who has made lowering energy costs, the reduction of carbon emissions, and climate change their #1 issue. Who was willing to vote NO on this bad, bad, bad, bill? If you were willing to vote NO, then you are one of the good guys – IMHO
Another litmus test from 2021 was HB444 relating to lease extensions on public lands. This measure was opposed by just about every environmental and native Hawaiian organization across all islands. A NO vote opposing HB444 is clearly a vote that tells the whole world whose side you are on.
Both of these votes are what I consider “crunch time votes” and are clear measures of character, dependability, and values – at least with regards to those values pertaining to environmental protection, public trust land rights, and climate change.
7) What issues have non-incumbent challengers publicly supported or opposed via testimony and other public means (letters to the editor etc)?
Once it seems clear that a candidate has the right stuff in terms of values and character, then the question is one of electability.
8) Are they willing to do the hard work it takes to win? Do they have roots in the district? Can they put a team together to help them win? Are they willing and able to raise the basic funds needed to launch a campaign (signs, banners, walking pieces etc)?
9) Can they win? Sometimes, winning isn’t everything and merely challenging the incumbent corporatist is sufficient reason to support a candidate. Taking a “bad” guy down a notch or two, and preparing the challenger to win “next time”, can be considered winning.
Another huge factor:
10) Who is the opposition? Are they running against a powerful incumbent who continuously blocks legislation that is important to our core values?
Supporting a candidate who shares our values, who can win, and who is willing to challenge a “bad” incumbent – is perhaps the best situation.
A candidate’s willingness to speak up and speak out on important issues, AND to push back when needed against the big dogs in House and Senate leadership – are also key factors that make a candidate more attractive.
So there’s no mystery to the process and criteria. The above 10 points pretty much lay it out. Does a candidate need to hit all 10? Frankly, it’s rare, as candidates are people and people are imperfect.
At the end of the day, the totality of the 10 factors, combined with other inputs and the overall direction of the naʻau – will ultimately drive the decision.