SuperPac targets Maui Council for takeover

Heads Up! This is important – regardless of whether you live on Maui, or not. Please read through until the end, and help if you can.

A new SuperPac based in Reno, Nevada has launched a $120,000 effort to elect a pro-development/pro-corporate slate of new candidates, essentially attempting to take over the Maui County Council. The “Hui O Maui Citizens for Change” SuperPac chairperson and treasurer is Grant David Gillham, who registered the organization using a Reno, Nevada address.

You can read the names of those candidates, and see the exact SuperPac budget breakdown by reviewing the recent “Electioneering Report.”

Soon Maui will be flooded with social media, radio, newspaper, and direct mail support for this effort to take over the Council.

It is interesting that the largest company being paid by this SuperPac is a public relations communications company by the name of COMMPAC. One of their prominently featured clients is A&B. And for what it’s worth, the president of COMMPAC is married to the president of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce. And of course, A&B is on the Board of the Chamber…Ahhh what a tangled web indeed…

So, just who is the man leading the charge trying to change the face and actions of the Maui County Council? Who is Grant David Gillham?

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee: “Grant Gillham is a special kind of consultant, the sort chemical company executives would hire to kill legislation that seeks to ban the profitable but toxic substances they produce.

A former Air Force AWACS pilot, Gillham worked for Republicans in the (California) Capitol in the 1990s, left in 1998 to campaign against a tobacco tax initiative, and later represented Lorillard Tobacco in California and other Western states.

Gillham flies below the radar but has relationships with the most effective lobbyists in this town and in virtually every other capital city in the country. If you need bills killed here, or in Carson City, or Helena, or Albany, Gillham is a one-stop hitman…”.

A description from his own speaker bio: “Mr. Gillham provides clients with deliberate advice on political timing, overcoming regulatory hurdles, swaying public perception, and how to develop relationships with the right persons and agencies in government.”

In addition, to “Hui O Maui Citizens for Change” Mr. Gillham was/is also a key player in the Maui Timeshare Ohana Political Action Committee (now One Ohana Political Action Committee). In the past, this committee received $125,000 each from the Ocean Resort Villas PAC and Ocean Resort Villa North PAC, which are affiliated with owners of timeshares at The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas. They also received funding from the American Resort Association and are presently sitting on over half a million dollars of PAC money. This is not the first time big money SuperPacs have attempted similar efforts to influence the Maui Council – Maui News Article.

This all begs the real question:
Who exactly does Mr. Gillham work for?
What is their ultimate agenda?

The candidates being targeted by the pro-development forces on Maui are, of course, the best of the best. They are driven by doing right by the community, first and foremost. Unlike far too many others, they do not live and breathe based on the beck and call of the big corporations.

Why are these exceptional community leaders being targeted? Well for starters, the existing majority on the Maui County Council actually had the audacity to increase taxes on the resort industry. They also have taken strong steps to protect the environment and they insist that affordable housing be truly affordable and developed in a manner that respects the residents and their community.

Further angering the corporate forces who historically have always called the shots, is the fact that the Maui County Council is attempting to elevate the importance of sustainable agriculture, and they are willing to discuss the possibility of limits on the visitor industry.

All are reasons why we need to collectively step up and help these candidates who are in fact willing to do the right thing, for the right reasons, and thus have drawn the ire of big money.

Regardless of where you live, please if you can, offer the champions listed below whatever help you can. Each and every one of them is an exceptional human being who wakes up every morning wanting to do good for their community. They work hard and they are working hard now, but they need our help and support. Whether it be $20, $200, or $2,000 – all are welcome and greatly needed. Ballots will be mailed out very soon, so fundraising help is needed NOW.

Where Maui goes, all Hawaii will follow – of this I am sure.

Please help with an online contribution, today if you can.

Keani Rawlins-Fernandez
Maui County Council Vice-Chair, and Chair Economic Development and Budget Committee

Kelly Takaya King
Maui County Council – Chair of Climate Action and Resilience Committee

Shane Sinenci
Maui County Council – Chair of Environmental, Agricultural, Cultural Preservation Committee

Tamara Paltin
Maui County Council – Chair of Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee

Gabriel (Gabe) Johnson
Candidate for Maui County Council
Gabe is solid and his election together with the reelection of the 4 listed above, would provide assurance that the Maui County Council would continue moving forward and implementing public policy that is good for people and the planet.
We really, really need Gabe to win – so help him please if you can.

Last but certainly not least for Maui County residents only:
Please consider voting YES to all 7 proposed charter amendments!


Gary Hooser –
Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI)

Full Disclosure: Pono Hawaii Initiative has a dog or two or five…in this fight. You can see our complete statewide endorsement list here.

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County authority and “workarounds”- policy wonk stuff:

So just what can the County Council do anyway? Increasingly, this is the question I am getting from friends and neighbors. Frequently it is preceded by “I know they are responsible for balancing the budget, for setting property tax rates, and that they regulate land use, but what does that mean and what can they actually do?”

These three areas of responsibility (and others) are granted to the County via the State constitution.

The short answer is the County Council can do the basics and live essentially within the status quo, or they can think “outside the box” (but within their constitutionally granted authority) in pursuit of solving the problems and challenges facing our community.

A responsible Council ideally will do a little bit of both.

Balancing the budget means establishing priorities. For example, historically the County has provided far more support for the tourism industry than they have for agriculture. The purchasing choices made by the County also are essentially public policy decisions with significant potential implications.

Regulating land use means the County has the authority to determine just about EVERYTHING when it comes to what specific parcels of land may be used for (hotel, residential, agriculture, commercial, etc). This power includes what exactly may be constructed on the land, where it may be constructed (setbacks etc), and more.

Today and in future columns, I will explore a collection of “out of the box” alternatives to setting public policy utilizing these three areas that the County clearly has the legal authority over. I will start with the power of the County to regulate property taxes.

The primary source of funding for the County comes via the property tax. The Council sets the tax rates, and the overall structure governing the collection of property taxes. With some small exceptions, the State retains all other taxing authority. For example, the County cannot implement an income tax, sales tax, airline tax, car rental tax, or a hotel room tax, etc.

However, there are “workarounds” if the Council, with support of the Mayor, was inclined to expand the scope of their taxing authority.

For example, while the County does not have the authority to implement a “hotel room tax,” the County could significantly increase the property tax on hotels/resorts and achieve a similar outcome. The hotel/resort will pass-on all tax increases to the visitor so the net result would be similar – the arriving tourist is taxed more.

Similarly, the County does not have the legal authority to tax rental cars directly however it does have the authority to tax the land upon which these cars are parked and/or rented out from. An increase in property taxes on these lands would also be passed on to the renters of these cars, thus effectively simulating a tax on rental cars when it is actually a tax on the property upon which the rental cars sit.

Since the County taxes owner-occupied residential property at a preferred rate, it is reasonable to believe that they could tax locally owned businesses also at a lower rate. And since the County also takes into consideration the income of some property owners when calculating the taxes owed, it is also reasonable that the County could do the same with business, commercial and industrial property.

In other words, the County has the legal authority and taxing mechanisms in place to establish a tax structure that benefits small locally owned business while shifting the burden to large off-shore owned corporate enterprises (think Walmart and other large enterprises).

Yes, there are “workarounds”. If done thoughtfully, the County budget could benefit substantially from very targeted tax increases. In addition, such action could create and support other positive societal impacts, like reducing the number of rental cars on the road and supporting locally owned small businesses.

There are many variables used to determine the amount of property taxes ultimately due by a property owner. An owner-occupied home, a market-based residential rental, a residential property used for commercial purposes – all pay a different amount. Resorts, vacation rentals, industrial, and commercial properties also have varying tax rates. Similarly situated agricultural lands, depending on many factors including what they grow or do not grow, will pay different amounts.

Most importantly, the existing County property tax structure utilizes a property’s “use” as a primary factor in determining the appropriate tax rates and classification for individual properties. This element of “use” could be structured in any number of ways to achieve budget objectives, to incentivize or dis-incentivize various “uses” and activities, and to ensure a progressive property tax structure.

Those who live here full time, those who choose to rent their properties at “affordable” rates, and those whose businesses are based here and whose profits remain here – should pay the least. Those who have more should pay more.

While at first glance it may seem that the fundraising capacity and County regulatory authority is limited. Remember: There are always, “workarounds.”

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Kauai: Sheltered from the storm

We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and our economy is on the edge of collapse. Sparked by violent acts of racial injustice and fueled by the ever-increasing economic disparity between the 1% and everybody else, people across the United States and around the world are gathering and marching by the tens of thousands.

In a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, everyone, it seems, seeks a scapegoat. Here in our United States, good ole boys from the heartland and Deep South blame the urban “elites” from the North and West. Too many “haves” blame the “have nots”; the “have nots” often blame each other. Agent provocateurs on both sides are manipulated by those in power who benefit from the unrest and uncertainty. Those with guns, engorged by testosterone and arrogance, are convinced they stand on, and must defend, the side of justice.

Meanwhile, the media, both mainstream and live-streamed from the streets, focus and thrive on the amped-up, anti-hero wanna-be; the 15 seconds of a fame-seeking bad actor, and other sideshows made for YourTube. Sadly, the outcome is increasingly real violence, real bullets, and real deaths.

The world, as they say, seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket. Live, in real-time.

Unfortunately, a great majority of us have no confidence in the government institutions responsible for leading us out of the mess they led us into.

In Hawaii, we have so far escaped the social unrest and violence that have torn apart communities on the continent. While there is broad-based dissatisfaction with our state government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, our problems have not been compounded by police shootings, looting, or riots.

We can and we should engage in the greater dialogue, and vote in the coming presidential election. I am hopeful the conclusion of that election will be one that honors our constitution.

For today, and for the foreseeable future, my thoughts are to think global and act local. I hope you will join me.

Mayor Kawakami has done a good job keeping Kauai County safe. While the rest of Hawaii has to a great extent been rife with dissatisfaction over their local government’s management of the COVID threat, most of us here on Kauai give our Mayor high marks for both style and substance. His recent personal and direct involvement in defusing and ultimately ending the standoff between community and cult is another example of his excellent hands-on and relatively low-key style of leadership.

Moving forward, I am hopeful that Mayor Kawakami will remain focused first and foremost on protecting the health of our community. There is no doubt tremendous pressure from the visitor industry and others in the business sector, both large and small, to open up our island to air travel. There is talk of “visitor bubbles”, pre-testing, post-testing, and all manner of possible protocols that might allow visitors to return safely. But at the end of the day, I believe the community response to any such proposal at the moment, would consist of just three words.

Don’t do it.

Our island is now relatively free of COVID-19. While we still wear our masks and keep our distance when in the store or at the beach, we do not want to return to a full lock-down. The economic pain for our community is real, but we do not need to move backward after having come so far.

The ramping up of “contact tracing,” seems to only now be getting up to speed. The number of daily cases on Oahu remains in the triple digits, while Big Island and Maui cases continue to climb.

Kauai is in a good spot, and we should strive to stay there. The state of the science with regards to testing is moving at lightning speed. In another few months the tests will be faster, cheaper, and most importantly, more accurate. It makes sense to sit tight for now and wait.

And while we wait, we patronize our local businesses. We buy from local farmers and local markets. We eat at local restaurants, and we donate if we can to local organizations. We look out for each other, and we help our neighbors. We cut the sarcasm and the constant criticism of each other. If needed, we get off of social media entirely. We show respect to one another, and we live aloha.

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What does Donald Trump’s banner have to do with it?

We are living in extraordinary times surrounded on all sides by uncertainty. Fortunately, our home is on the most isolated island of the most isolated island chain in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

In this time of social upheaval, it is good that folks from the outside cannot just jump on a Grey Hound bus and come into our community, as they have streamed into Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon in recent weeks.

We don’t need or want the hate and divisiveness here. Yes, we have a similar diversity of opinion, and we have similarly strong feelings on similar issues, but so far aloha has prevailed – mostly.

The vandalism of the Trump banner on Kuhio Highway in Kapaa saddens me, and I am hopeful that this negative destructive behavior does not spread further.

You will find no greater opponent to the re-election of Donald Trump, than me. I believe that his re-election would plunge the United States even deeper into the turmoil and darkness which now seems to permeate all corners of the continent. While it seems a cliche, I truly do believe that the election of November 3rd is the most important one of our lifetime.

But we must not allow President Trump nor his supporters, to goad us into negative behavior that accomplishes nothing except to justify their claims against us. As former first lady Michelle Obama has said, “When they go low, we go high.”

It is a slippery slope from the destruction and defacement of a Trump campaign banner, to the vandalism of other candidate banners of those who might support his re-election. Then, it could quickly devolve into a “tit-for-tat”, first among Kauai candidates and supporters, and then among our friends and neighbors who may have differing opinions.

No one should be afraid to put up any candidate’s sign in their yard. We here on Kauai are better than that. We can and must show aloha and respect each other’s political choices. We may not understand how our neighbors could come to the conclusion they come to, but we must respect and honor their choice to think differently.

As someone who has been in the thick of many important and contentious issues over the past 25 years, I have come to conclude that good people can look at the same facts and circumstances, and come to different conclusions.

This does not mean we must accept injustice, racism, the loss of our freedoms, or the poisoning of our environment. To the contrary, we can and we must join with our brothers and sisters across the planet to fight back against these things.

The battle in a civil society however must take place first at the ballot box, then in the halls of government and in the courts. And yes, the battle must sometimes also be taken to the streets in the form of peaceful protests and if necessary civil disobedience.

Stifling the free speech of your neighbor while destroying their property in the dead of the night, is not the answer.

With COVID taking its daily toll, the economy in a free fall, the November elections looming only months away, the ongoing racial injustice caught on video seemingly on a daily basis, and the increasing violence occurring on the streets of cities across the nation – the prospects of a positive path forward seem dimmer each day.

But of course, we must not let these challenges overwhelm us, and we must instead rise to the occasion as a community, regardless of how others act elsewhere.

At my core, I’m an optimist and know that this too shall pass – all of it. The time of COVID will pass and eventually, both our physical health and the health of our economy, will recover and improve. The coming presidential election and the strife and discord that now seems ever-present will also pass.

To be clear, optimism without pragmatism is simply naivety that is sure to result in disappointment. Thus, we cannot stop the work.

Now more than ever, we must pull together. Now more than ever, the importance of accountability, forward-thinking, decisive, and informed leadership at all levels – is critical. We must vote, and we must actively take ownership of our government. We must take civic responsibility seriously.

Now more than ever we need to live with mutual respect, civility, and aloha. For our community to survive and to grow stronger during these extraordinary times, we must remember first and foremost that we are all ohana, and that we are all in this together.

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COVID Economic Crisis Deserves Special Session

We are in the midst of the greatest crisis of our lifetime. The legislature should convene in a special session as soon as possible and go to work. There are many challenges to be resolved, and no reason to further delay taking meaningful action to help alleviate the mounting economic damage to small businesses and local residents.

This is not the time for “business as usual.” We simply cannot afford to wait until January for the 2021 legislative session to begin, then run its normal course and conclude in May. Issues such as the ongoing unemployment insurance debacle, our imploding economy, food self-sufficiency, and many other pressing needs must be dealt with now and given the urgent attention they deserve.

The primary excuse for inaction to be offered by legislative leaders will always be about money. That my friends is shibai. I learned a long, long time ago that when the government tells you there is no money, what they are really telling you is that what you are asking for, is not a priority.

Our state legislature found the money to fund public workers raises, but yet they can’t seem to find the money or the political will to eliminate the state income tax on unemployment benefits. This is the least our state government can do to help make up for the pain caused by the gross mismanagement of the unemployment application and implementation process.

So much can be done with just the stroke of a pen, and without money or at least without immediate budget impacts. In addition to taking the state income tax off of unemployment benefits, the legislature could also:

Place a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, or at the minimum create a punitive sized (as in very big) new tax on lending institutions (and related businesses, law firms, collection companies, etc) who institute foreclosure proceedings on any Hawaii properties for a period of X years following the start of the COVID-19 stay at home orders.

Incentivize rent reductions both for residential and commercial rents, by making “rent reductions and unpaid rent” a deductible expense for tax purposes. Government must reward landlords who forgo or voluntarily reduce their rents to long-term tenants. Landlords would then receive a tax benefit above and beyond simply not being taxed on the income.

Eliminate tax penalties and interest for any business that has been negatively impacted by COVID. Yes, the state needs, is owed and deserves to be paid taxes on income and sales, however penalties and interest for late payments should be waived during this period.

Eliminate the General Excise Tax (GET) on long term residential rental income derived from rentals serving 100% of median income and for small business owners impacted by COVID.

Numerous options are available to increase revenue, not the least of which is the legalization and taxing of cannabis. Closing the existing tax loop-hole on Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) will also add much need additional funding to the state budget.

Redirecting existing state spending toward “buying local” is an obvious but too often neglected strategy.

The state already spends hundreds of millions of dollars purchasing imported food for prisons, schools, and hospitals. Simply requiring this food to be purchased from local farmers and ranchers would reap huge benefits. Policymakers will respond no doubt by saying that it is a bit more complicated and not so easy, and the state is already “moving in this direction.” True statements I suppose, but an inadequate response during this time when emergency action is needed.

According to one University of Hawaii study, “Hawai’i’s total food imports are roughly $2 billion per year.” The number one item taught by the experts on the “things to do” list for economic development is to “plug the leaks.” Spend public funds locally and benefit from the economic “multiplier effect.” As individual consumers, we can and must also help make this happen by purchasing from local farmers, farmers markets, and in the supermarket always focusing on buying local. But our government must lead the way.

There is so much more our state government can do to spur the economy via local food production.

While it has been talked about and “on the table” for literally decades, the legislature should finally just do it and eliminate the General Excise Tax (GET) on “fresh food” (not prepared food, restaurant meals, or processed food) thus reducing the cost of living for all residents while supporting local agriculture. The term “fresh food” is utilized here to avoid interstate commerce and tariff restrictions.

For the small farms on every island that actually sell food for local consumption, the state should exempt them from collecting or paying any GET whatsoever (on purchases or sales). This effectively reduces the cost of all of their expenses (equipment, seed, water, etc.) by 4.5% and giving their agricultural products a similar price advantage in the marketplace.

There is no shortage of meaningful public policy actions that could be made NOW during a special session. Many in the community have their own lists, and all ideas should be on the table.

What seems to be missing at the legislature is a solution based sense of urgency, and a focused commitment to identify and implement meaningful public policy – today. Unfortunately, too many of our political leaders, like so many others throughout history, seem content to just sit on the sidelines and fiddle, while the world comes crashing down around us.

Yes, the legislature has a responsibility to ask questions and demand answers from the executive branch, but their primary duty is to legislate and not to administrate. It is the legislature’s job to set the policy which guides the direction of our state, and it’s the governor’s job to implement those same policies.

The time of non-action or molasses-like “incremental progress” with the obligatory limp excuses talking about how complex the issue is, or about how hard it is to please the various groups – is over. Call and email your legislator and those legislative leaders at the top of the food chain, today – demand a special session, demand action, demand that they do their job.

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Affordable Housing – Which side are you on?

For policy wonks working on affordable housing. While the below piece is Kauai specific, I think the principles are important and universal.

Hooser – Policy and Politics
Title: Affordable Housing – Which side are you on?

The affordable housing conversation happening now at the County Council is an interesting one. As is the case for most complex “omnibus” type legislative proposals, there are both good and bad changes being proposed, depending on your perspective.

Rather than attempt to debate or dissect the numerous moving parts of the measure, it seems appropriate and important to step back and focus on the big picture for a moment.

Is the primary intent of the Council to increase the availability of truly affordable housing for local residents? Or is their main intent to generate development and “revitalize” the town core in Lihue and other areas?

Or to rephrase the question: Whose interests are being served? Is the Council most concerned with serving low to middle income working residents, or are they primarily focused on helping landowners, developers, and local business owners to increase their profits?

The answer no doubt from some proponents on the Council will be: “If we help the landowners and developers make increased profits, then low to middle income working residents will benefit as well.” The trickle-down theory at work, or not, once again.

Others on the Council will of course believe that both interests can be served, concurrently. It’s true I believe that both interests can be served, but it all comes down to money.

This should not be a surprise to anyone, as money does in fact make the wheels go round.

Developers and landowners will not develop affordable housing unless the costs of doing so are subsidized. Either those costs are subsidized by the private “market units” developed within the project, and/or the subsidy is provided by government in the form of infrastructure, density, or tax credits.

Without a subsidy, there will be no affordable housing built, period. Increasing the inventory of market-priced units will not result in an increased supply of affordable units. While this theory might be taught in an introductory economics class or in an ALEC “how to help developers” seminar, it is not the reality here on this island in the middle of the Pacific.

Prior to entering the world of policy and politics, I was active in the real estate business for over 10 years. I know first hand that the long term demand for Kauai real estate is insatiable. Certainly the demand for affordable homes which by definition are “below market,” is beyond insatiable.

No affordable housing will be built without a subsidy. By removing the requirement for developers to subsidize the 30% affordable unit requirement via their “market priced” homes, the Council will ensure that no affordable homes at all will be provided in the Lihue, Koloa, or Kalaheo town cores.

Rather than remove the requirement for the developer to subsidize the affordable units, the County could “add to the subsidy” by absorbing certain off-site infrastructure costs and/or via tax credits tied to the increased property tax value that would result from the development.

Unfortunately, the Council in the past already more than doubled the density in the Lihue town core, but got nothing in return from the property owners, who themselves received a windfall in the form of increased property values. Consequently, the “increased density subsidy” card has already been given away for free, in Lihue anyway.

If the goal of the Council is to both support the revitalization of the various town cores and to ensure that those local people who actually work in those towns can afford to live there, they must not remove the 30% affordability requirement. Invest more public funds in infrastructure or tax credits if needed to further support or incentivize the construction, but please, do not remove that 30% requirement.

First published on August 26th in The Garden Island Newspaper

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Where do we go from here?


A friend sent me a short message a few days ago asking, “Where do we go from here?” My initial response was simply, “Forward.”

Later, I added, “We rest a bit, then we go back at it. We help our friends in the general election of November 3, at the same time we regroup and start on 2022. Along the way we fight for the good stuff, and against the bad stuff. Are you in?”

So, I ask you who are reading this today, are you in? Can you help?

In order to continue moving forward, maintain, and grow our efforts, the Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) could use some help itself actually. We run a pretty lean organization but we do have expenses. Can you help by making a secure online contribution today? Our goal is to raise at least $6,500 by September 1st so that we can revamp our website, further grow our communication efforts and fund basic administrative costs through the final quarter of the year. If you prefer, contributions by check may be sent to: Pono Hawaii Initiative, P.O. Box 871, Honolulu, HI 96808

We had many solid wins in the recent Primary Election, but now need to focus on the General to preserve and expand on those gains. There will not be as many races to focus on but each is important and some critically so (more on this in a future post).

For 2022, the planning begins now. In 2022 every single seat in the Hawaii State House and Senate will be up for election, plus there will be a governors race, a Kauai and Maui mayors race, and others.

Potential candidates (both incumbent and newcomers) need to start laying the groundwork for their campaigns now. If you are interested in running in 2022, if you have roots in your community, and if your values are in support of environmental, economic, and social justice, please lmk if I can help or otherwise add value (for free) to your planning.

So yes, we keep moving forward and doing so as aggressively as possible. There is too much at stake to dilly dally.

Please if you can, an online contribution of any amount, whether it is $25, $250 to $2,500 is welcome and no amount is too small. We are recognized by the federal government as 501c4 non-profit organization however because of the legislative and political advocacy work we do, CONTRIBUTIONS ARE NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE.

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer at this time. My hope is that we can raise an amount to cover our basic expenses by September 21st, and then focus 100% of future efforts toward helping the handful of candidates who anticipate having close general elections.


Gary Hooser –
Pono Hawaii Initiative

NOTE: If you are not on my regular email list, please consider subscribing directly at

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Election Results: Iwamoto/Saiki, Ritte/DeCoite – Too Close To Call


In a stunning display of strength for the progressive movement in Hawaii, Kim Coco Iwamoto is within 162 votes of beating Speaker of the House Scott Saiki, arguably one of the most powerful men in Hawaii. HD26 (Kakaako)

Hawaii News Now is reporting the race as “too close to call” stating that approximately 2,500 votes statewide remain uncounted. Note to readers: As of August 16th I have seen no further reports to indicate anything has changed. My assumption is that the 2,500 ballots yet to be counted did not impact any race.

In his 26 years in office, Saiki had never seriously been challenged and started the race with $222,230 in his campaign war chest, versus Iwamoto’s $17,886. Saiki had the support of every single public worker union (whose pay raises during the pandemic Saiki had vocally supported), virtually the entire business establishment (given that he has consistently blocked increasing the minimum wage) and a local media that refused to even acknowledge that Iwamoto was a serious challenger.

On top of it all, Speaker Saiki utilized his power and position and both his campaign budget and his official legislative budget, to flood his district’s mailboxes with official-looking brochures touting his work on pandemic issues.

Yes, the entire political and business establishment rallied together to beat Kim Coco Iwamoto. They may, or may not have won this election, but Kim Coco Iwamoto and those in Hawaii who are fighting to put people and the planet above corporate profits, are definitely winning the war.

On another battle-front between corporate profits and protecting the ‘aina, is another “too close to call” race between Walter Ritte, a man who is unquestionably a champion for all Hawaii, and incumbent Lynne DeCoite. At the time of this email, Ritte was just 91 votes shy of victory. HD13 (Molokai/Maui)

Running in their first re-election campaigns incumbent Representatives Amy Perruso and Tina Wildberger both soundly trounced their challengers, proving that a new legislator can speak out, oppose the establishment when necessary – and still get reelected. HD46 (Wahiawa)  & HD11 (Kihei Maui)

Sonny Ganaden, a true champion for working people has overwhelmingly beaten incumbent Representative Romy Cachola 1,470 to 831. HD30 (Kalihi)

First-time candidate Adrian Tam, a strong progressive and emerging young leader, also appears to have carved out a narrow 143 vote win, against the House Leadership backed incumbent Representative Tom Brower. HD22 (Waikiki)

Another newcomer, Trish La Chica HD36 (Mililani) won her primary solidly. Trish’s campaign is based on her “dedication to fighting against unjust systems and policies that favor those with wealth and power.” HD36 (Mililani)

Former Representative Matt LoPresti “the comeback kid” who is a solid progressive also won his primary with strong numbers. HD41 (Ewa)

Lisa Marten’s win is also emerging as a victory for progressives and those in the environmental community. This Windward Oahu district was fortunate to have several good candidates competing and though my choice was Alan Akao who did not make the cut – this district and the progressive/environmental community will be well represented here by Lisa Marten. HD51 (Kailua/Waimanalo)

Similarly, on the Big Island there were two solid individuals running for the same seat, who share the world view of putting people and the planet first. Jeanne Kapela came out on top over Colehour Bondera who is also a friend and ally. HD5 (Kona)

So let’s do the math for the State House of Representatives – 8 solid wins for people and the planet, with 2 more “on the bubble”.  #winning

During the course of this campaign journey, I came to the conclusion that we had at least 19 solid candidates running for the State House who shared our world view of environmental, economic, and social justice. To each of you who ran, please know that you are a hero in my book. I know a little bit about what it takes to run a campaign for public office, and the toll it can take on family, friends, and finances.  

Whether you are one of those candidates who made it over the top, or perhaps you fell short – you should be commended for your willingness to put it out there. Many in our community talk about change, but few are willing to actually make the commitment to enter the arena and risk defeat.

I lost my first race in 1994 for the Kauai County Council and it was the worst day of my life. I ran again in 1998 and won. In total, I have run for public office 10 different times, winning 6 and falling short in 4.  I encourage every candidate that was not successful this time, to take the time needed to rest and catch-up on family and personal stuff…and then start working on the next campaign.

After-all – 2022 starts now.


Gary Hooser
Complete Results – Office of Elections
Subscribe – Hooser email/news 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

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For Monsanto and friends it’s politics as usual: Buying influence at the state legislature –

Does anyone else find it interesting that a lobbyist for Monsanto is running the House Leadership PAC? House Leadership by definition is Speaker Scott Saiki and his team.

You really can’t make this stuff up. A Political Action Committee established to support “House Leadership,” is being managed by Emmanuel Zibakalam who is a lobbyist for the largest GMO companies and pesticide manufacturers on the planet. For added value, Mr. Zibakalam is also involved in a “pro-rail” group that appears to be masquerading as a grass-roots community-based organization.

It goes without saying that both groups have a significant financial stake in the decisions made by Speaker Saiki and House Leadership.

Organizational Report for Hawaii House Democratic PAC

The position of PAC Chairperson, the PAC Treasurer and the PAC Custodian of Books and Accounts, are all held by a single individual – Emmanuel Zibakalam.

Mr Zibakalam lists his occupation as Principal at Pacific Business Advocates LLC 

Per their website: “Pacific Business Advocates accommodates clients looking for advocacy in the Federal, State, and County arenas. We maintain a constant dialogue with government entities to ensure current information of the rapidly changing political landscape.”

At the very top of their “Sample Client Roster” are: Bayer (Monsanto), Syngenta, Corteva (Dow/Dupont), and the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

Mr. Zibakalam is also a spokesperson for Friends of Rail, a “pro-rail” support group that has been described as a fake grassroots organization (astroturf) backed by rail development interests. See Civil Beat Ian Lind: ‘Don’t be fooled by Friends of Rail’

Mr. Zibakalam has raised $24,750 during the most recent reporting period.

Recent Campaign Contributions by the Hawaii House Democratic PAC are all to Representatives who Speaker Saiki and House Leadership want to “protect.”

Onishi, Richard 08/03/2020 $2,000
Gates, Cedric 08/03/2020 $2,000
Brower, Tom 07/15/2020 $2,000
Eli, Stacelynn 07/15/2020 $2,000
Kitagawa, Lisa 07/15/2020 $2,000

By protecting these Representatives, Mr. Zibalkalam and by extension his clients are protecting the position of House Speaker Scott Saiki.

For Mr. Zibakalam and his clients, this is a twofer. They gain and/or improve their access and influence with regards to these 5 legislators, but more importantly, they significantly increase their access to Speaker Scott Saiki.

This my friends is the definition of “buying influence.” It is of course legal, and yes, Speaker Saiki has some influence when it comes to making laws.

A closing note on “buying influence”: To be clear, for the vast majority of legislators a $2,000 contribution does not buy a vote. But it does buy access. The is a very real “hierarchy of access” and people that help politicians get elected, have greater access than the regular man and woman on the street. Accepting a donation from the House Leadership PAC does not beholden the recipient to the donor, but the donor will in fact gain easier access to the recipient in the future.

Full Disclosure: I am actively and strongly supporting Kim Coco Iwamoto in her campaign for election to the State House, currently held by House Speaker Scott Saiki. Kau’i Pratt-Aquino is also on my “highly recommended” list of endorsements and she is running against incumbent Lisa Kitagawa. My endorsement list and that of Pono Hawaii Initiative, also is supporting Adrian Tam who is challenging incumbent Tom Brower as well as is Shannon Matson who is running against Richard Onishi.

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Title: Why Jacquie Esser Over Judge Alm For Honolulu Prosecutor?

If you believe that our criminal justice system needs an overhaul then Jacquie Esser is your candidate for Honolulu Prosecutor. If you believe that people should not go to jail simply because they are poor and homeless, then Jacquie is someone that you will want to support. If you want a prosecutor who will aggressively go after white-collar crime and political corruption – Jacquie Esser is your candidate.

Honolulu Prosecutor candidate Jacquie Esser can win, but she needs our help today. She is very, very close to making it into the General Election (see Civil Beat Poll). Jacquie has momentum, she has worked very hard to make it this far and needs to push her t.v. advertising just a little bit harder over the next few days. 50 of us giving $100 apiece online TODAY can make a huge difference in this very close race.

Regardless of where you live, if you have the capacity to help – please send something to Jacquie Esser today. She is very close and just needs a little bit more support – from all of us.

Jacquie is the one and only candidate for these times, at this moment. She has been endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders as well as a wide range of organizations and community leaders.

A friend sent me an email recently asking, “Why Esser over Alm?”

My brief response, “On Judge Alm and Jacquie Esser: My general view of the world at the moment (and not just because of COVID) is one of intense urgency.  Esser brings the values, commitment, and energy needed for the moment.  Jacquie is actively out in the community every day it seems, sharing her values, plans, and thoughts on criminal justice.  I don’t think I have ever seen anything from Judge Alm at all. Perhaps he is not on social media, or maybe because he is the comfortable front-runner he has not been campaigning aggressively – However I would prefer someone with “the eye of the tiger” and not someone comfortable with the status quo. And…I would be less than truthful if I did not say that I find Esser as a woman and someone much younger than Alm…a more refreshing and inspiring candidate. This is coming from a 66-year-old white man 😉  We need to move our state, our country and our world more quickly along that “arc of the moral universe” which is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Dr. King) – and I believe Esser has the “fire in the belly” we need to do this.“

My fellow baby boomers: we have seriously messed up. it’s time to give the next generation a shot at fixing what we broke. Please help Jacquie Esser today if you can.

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