Reflections on the Mauna

Friends and fellow HAPA Board Members Walter Ritte and Kaleikoa Ka‘eo –
Chained to a cattle grate for 11 hours to protect the Mauna.
*photographer unknown

How did we get to a place where hundreds of Hawai‘i police officers dressed in full riot gear are arresting kupuna and carting them off in paddy wagons?

More importantly, how do we get out of this very dangerous situation before it blows up further?

The roots of the conflict on the Mauna are complex, but not really.

Our state government has mismanaged the telescope issue since inception, just as it continues to mismanage public trust natural resources in general – on all islands.

Too many promises have been broken and too many concessions already have been made.

Now the people have risen to say “enough already”.

There are at least 13 other telescopes already on Mauna Kea. The TMT will be 18 stories tall, encompassing an area equivalent to 4 football fields.  The cumulative impact of the new proposal and the existing development equates to a massive industrial complex – all situated on conservation land and a site most sacred to Hawaiians.

Being against the TMT does not translate to being “anti-science” or “anti astronomy”.  Similarly, being against a hotel development on the beach that will generate jobs, does not equate to being “against jobs”.

Denying the TMT development will not stop the astronomy. The developers have already indicated publicly they can build the project in Chile or in the Canary Islands where they have already secured permits.

This is public land, so it’s not a question of denying someone their private property rights. The state can choose to allow the development, or not. 

In addition to the poor stewardship and broken promises directly associated with Mauna Kea…there is a vast litany of negligence, ongoing mismanagement of public resources, and an abuse of the public trust – on all islands.

A recent audit of the DLNR Land Management Division concluded there was “no strategic plan for its public lands”.

On Kaua‘i, the state is knowingly and consciously dumping millions of gallons of pesticide-contaminated water into nearshore waters on Kauai’s west side, where families recreate, fish and pick limu.  The state knows these waters contain a wide array of pesticides and heavy metals, they know they are breaking federal law – yet they continue the daily dumping.

On Maui, for decades the state has transferred the rights of public trust stream waters to major corporations, effectively killing countless mountain streams and denying downstream users the benefit of the water – also without the constitutionally and legally required permits and without adequate compensation or public protections.

On O‘ahu, massive underground military fuel tanks situated directly over major drinking water aquifers have been leaking fuel for years and it took the release of 27,000 gallons to prod the state into action.

Who are the primary beneficiaries of this de facto desecration and defilement of our public trust resources?  The answer, of course, is multinational chemical companies, real estate investment trusts (REIT’s), Canadian pension funds, a global university conglomerate and ultimately the U.S. military.

And all of this takes place against a backdrop of statewide political and governmental corruption that is in the news every day.

It is not surprising that people across the island chain, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike, have had enough and consequently have drawn the proverbial line in the sand…on the Mauna.

The governor and his security force must stand down.  Bringing in more armed police and making more arrests will escalate the passion and increase the likelihood of physical harm coming to those now on the mountain.

The only winning path for the people of Hawai‘i is for the state to immediately announce their intent to cancel the TMT project.  Yes, there will be a price to pay for this action, but it will be far less of a price than that which will be incurred by pressing forward with troops and batons.

This is about much more than a single telescope being built on this particular mountain.

Please reach out today and ask Governor Ige, do what is pono.

Ask him to not use force to achieve his goals on Mauna Kea.  Ask him instead to lead with aloha, statesmanship, and restraint. 

Please call his office at 808-586-0034 and leave a message with his office staff, or on his voice mail.  While it may be difficult for some, please state your message with courtesy and politeness.  The person who answers the phone is not responsible for the Governors decision.

With respect and solidarity,

Gary Hooser
Board President – Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA)
Hawai’i State Senator (2002 – 2010)
Director Office of Environmental Quality Control (2011 – 2012)
Kauai County Council (1998 -2002, 2012 -2016)

Note1: If you agree, I ask that you also consider supporting the protectors on the Mauna by making a contribution of any amount ASAP to the Aloha Aina Support Fund.

Note2:  I want to thank everyone who was able to make a contribution to HAPA in support of economic justice issues.  Of the $8,500 goal, we received just over $5,000!  If you can help close that final gap please visit HAPA online if possible by July 24th, to make a secure and tax-exempt donation.  

Note3:  Please take moment if you can to read my latest blog piece that better explains the ADC issue of polluting Kauai’s west side waters with pesticides and heavy metals.

“Every single day of the week, the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) dumps millions of gallons of water polluted with pesticides and heavy metals into the ocean in areas where Kauai’s west side residents fish, surf and recreate with their families.

“This is not wild speculation, exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole.”  READ MORE HERE  


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Kauai’s west side deserves better.  We all deserve better.

Every single day of the week, the Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) dumps millions of gallons of water polluted with pesticides and heavy metals into the ocean in areas where Kauai’s west side residents fish, surf and recreate with their families.

This is not wild speculation, exaggeration or hysterical hyperbole.  

United States District Court Judge Derrick K Watson on July 9th, 2019 ruled that the ADC is polluting the waters off of west Kauai and doing so without a permit required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Please read the court decision yourself:

Read the court decision and then send out your mahalo to community groups Na Kia‘i Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network — and most especially the law firm Earthjustice who represented them.

Yes, the unfortunate reality is that it took private action by local residents and private nonprofits to press the issue in federal court and finally begin to hold this state agency accountable. 

The ADC is a public agency who manages public agricultural lands. They are knowingly and consciously polluting public waters daily without a permit.

It gets worse.  Please read the court decision yourself, it will blow you away.

The court findings are eyeopening and include statements such as:

There is no question (emphasis added) that ADC discharges polluted water into the near-shore waters of the Pacific Ocean off Kauai’s western coast on a daily basis via the Mānā Plain drainage ditch system, and that it does so without an NPDES permit…It is undisputed that the water discharged contains various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals (emphasis added), as well as sediment from the unlined canals through which it passes.”

“…chemicals that seep into the drainage ditch system, including amniomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), a degradate of glyphosate; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a degradate of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); glyphosate, ametryn, atrazine, bentazon, chlorpyrifos, cispropiconazole, diuron, fipronil, hexazinone, MCPA, metolachlor, prometryn, propoxur, simazine, and trans-propiconazole…”

The ADC and the agrochemical industry based on Kauai’s west side will of course be quick to assure the public that the above listed toxic soup of “various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals…” are all there in only small amounts and it’s perfectly safe to swim in them.  A “little bit” is ok they will tell you.

But they won’t tell you that for some of these chemicals there is no acceptable level of exposure for a fetus.  They will also not tell you that chronic exposure to “a little bit” every day over decades results in negative health impacts that have yet to be fully understood.  Scientists and medical professionals alike though will agree that long term exposure to even small amounts of these chemicals is not good for your health, nor for the health of our reefs and nearshore fisheries.

If you live on Kauai’s west side, I encourage you to make an informed decision: Take a second to google these chemicals, read their labels and decide for yourself if you want to continue taking your family to the beach or eat the fish caught from the nearshore waters.

The ADC manages tens of thousands of acres of state-owned agricultural lands located primarily on Kauai and on Oahu. Their largest tenants are the agrochemical corporations (Dupont, Dow, Syngenta/Hartung, etc) doing genetic research and growing thousands of acres of GMO seed corn on Kauai’s west side.  These same tenants apply tons of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP’s) on a regular basis to crops grown on the adjacent fields.

The ADC is the enabler of the pollution but not the originator. The contaminants themselves are generated by the ADC’s industrial tenants and then make their way into the ditches managed by the ADC, and then into the nearshore waters.

The application of RUP’s is controlled by federal law, which strictly prohibits them from being used in a manner that allows them to drift on to neighboring properties or waterways.  The mere presence of these pesticides in the ditch water and ultimately in the ocean is de facto evidence that the companies using these chemicals are breaking the law.

It is reasonable, that our community should expect our state government to investigate the source of the contaminants and enforce the law.

It is reasonable to request that the governor and the Department of Agriculture mandate that the ADC review its tenant leases and include provisions further prohibiting them from applying RUP’s in a manner that allows them to drift or runoff into the ditch system and ultimately the ocean.

It is reasonable to levy stiff fines and penalties should the ADC and/or their tenants – continue to pollute and contaminate Kaua’s nearshore waters.  The ADC and these tenants know the law and yet they continuously and consciously seek ways to circumvent those requirements established to ensure public safety.

And finally, the ADC should immediately stop discharging this contaminated ditch effluent into the nearshore west side waters until they secure the permits they are legally required to have. The permit process allows for further public disclosure and closer scrutiny as to the nature, volume and source of the pollutants. The EPA and the State Department of Health can as a condition of the permit, set pollution limits as well as specify reporting and enforcement parameters.

Please read the court case in its entirety. It’s easy reading and very informative. Read the case and then after your anger and disgust subsides…call the governor and each of your elected representatives.  Ask them for action and for accountability – our community deserves it.

First published in The Garden Island Newspaper 7/16/19

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Huge news for Kauai’s west side waters – chemical companies take another hit.  


Click here to read the courts decision: Hawai‘i’s Agribusiness Development Corporation (ADC) has violated the federal Clean Water Act 

Community groups Na Kia‘i Kai, Surfrider Foundation, and Pesticide Action Network — represented by Earthjustice — sued the state agency for each day discharging millions of gallons of waters contaminated with pesticides, sediment, and heavy metals from the drainage ditch system it operates on the Mānā Plain.

The ADC manages tens of thousands of acres of state-owned agricultural lands located primarily on Kauai and on Oahu. Their largest tenants are the chemical companies (Dupont, Dow, Syngenta/Hartung, etc) doing genetic research and growing thousands of acres of GMO corn on Kauai’s west side.  These same tenants apply tons of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) on a regular basis to crops grown on the adjacent fields – and they have for decades refused to disclose the when, where and what details of their chemical usage.

It is important to note that in order to secure the permits as ordered by the courts, the ADC will now need to determine what pesticides, heavy metals, and other pollutants are contained within the waters being proposed for discharge.  And they will have to monitor and report them as well.  Translation: The chemical companies claim that their pesticides do not drift into adjacent soil, air and water will finally be refuted in detail – with research done by the state and with the results being public information.

The court findings are eyeopening and include statements such as:

“There is no question that ADC discharges polluted water into the near-shore waters of the Pacific Ocean off Kauai’s western coast on a daily basis via the Mānā Plain drainage ditch system, and that it does so without an NPDES permit. It is undisputed that the water discharged contains various pesticides and agricultural chemicals, byproducts of agricultural chemicals, and heavy metals, as well as sediment from the unlined canals through which it passes.”

“…chemicals that seep into the drainage ditch system, including amniomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), a degradate of glyphosate; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a degradate of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); glyphosate, ametryn, atrazine, bentazon, chlorpyrifos, cispropiconazole, diuron, fipronil, hexazinone, MCPA, metolachlor, prometryn, propoxur, simazine, and trans-propiconazole…”

One of my favorite lines is “The parade of horribles ADC sets forth is unmoving.”  This refers to the “Sky will fall if we have to get the permit…” claims made by the ADC.

Read the Earthjustice press release HERE 

For other related breaking news please also read: Hawaii GMO industry footprint shrinks by over 50% AND DOE bans herbicides in all Hawaii public schools


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Economic Justice – In defense of the invisible

When bills are introduced to protect dolphins, whales, bees or birds – it is a given that the chamber will be full of testifiers. Likewise, if there is a measure before any legislative body that purports to regulate fishing, or hunting, or dogs or cats – you can be sure it will be standing room only.

But for issues pertaining to economic justice, not so much.  Oh yes, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii will show up to say no…to any and all initiatives that have any impact at all on their membership. And the Hawaii Restaurant Association will show up to say no to anything that impacts their members. Government agencies will likewise be there in opposition, as they know from past experience the legislature will not properly fund their existing responsibilities, let alone new mandates.

But the down and out, the disenfranchised and those who stand to benefit most from economic justice legislation, will be mostly invisible.

Public interest organizations will, of course, show up in support. They will present clear unequivocal research, backed by mountains of data produced by credible highly regarded think tanks. Other supportive advocacy groups, including faith-based and millennial progressives, will also show up at the hearings, offering strong and compelling testimony in support.

In most areas of public policy, the most effective testifiers are those from the “impacted community”.  In this case those individuals at the bottom of the economic ladder – the homeless, the incarcerated, the mentally ill and those slaving every day at multiple jobs just trying to eke out a basic living.

It is no surprise the turnout at public hearings from this impacted community is weak to sometimes non-existent.

Perhaps low-income working people are fearful to ask the boss for time off work to testify in support of increasing their minimum wage.  Perhaps those without homes are also without access to the public notice of such meetings.  Or maybe they sit in jail awaiting trial for a crime for which they have not been convicted, but just can’t afford bail.

Most struggle mightily with basic daily survival and showing up at the Capitol to testify is not something that they have on their calendar.

The 2018 state legislature failed to increase Hawaii’s minimum wage that sits now at $10.10 per hour. Our state government has determined that $17 per hour is the amount needed for basic subsistence and anything less is simply starvation wages. 

Hawaii has the highest homeless rates per capita in the nation.

PayDay lenders are charging those who can least afford it, up to 400% interest and fees on small loans often needed to just “get by until the 1st”.

Nearly 1/2 the people now sitting in Hawaii jail cells are “pre-trial detainees” who have not been convicted of the crime for which they are accused, but are poor and cannot afford bail. Rich people, for the most part, don’t go to jail while awaiting trial – they simply post bail. 

According to the Aloha United Way who commissioned ALICE: A STUDY OF FINANCIAL HARDSHIP IN HAWAI‘I, 48 percent of Hawai‘i households struggle just to make ends meet with 11% of this group living in poverty as defined by the federal government.

Some readers may think that being poor is “their own damned fault”. They will look at the homeless huddled under the bridge and say to their friends, “they should just get a job”.  To those readers, I suggest that perhaps no one will hire them if they are missing teeth, or if they are mentally ill, or don’t have clean clothes and a dry safe place to sleep at night. For many, there are no jobs and the jobs there are don’t pay a living wage. 

Most of our friends and neighbors are already working two or three jobs and living with parents and grandparents. The hope of ever buying their own home is but a distant dream, with reality consisting of just getting by while hoping the kids don’t get sick and the car doesn’t break down.

According to the U.S. census, 66% of Hawaii residents have less than $1,000 in savings.  One medical emergency, two weeks of job layoff or any multitude of unexpected situations could cause 66% of us to plunge into a financial spiral that some never recover from. 

There but for the grace of God, go each and every one of us…

My ask for each of you who have read this far is to please make the time to advocate in support of economic justice. Ask your legislator to publicly support increasing Hawaii’s minimum wage to at least $17 (phased in over time), to clamp down on predatory lending practices, reform our criminal justice system, increase the supply of truly affordable housing and make increasing mental health services a priority.

The naysayers will say, “how are we going to pay for all of this”? The truth is we are already paying for it.  There is a price to pay no matter what, and the price for inaction – far exceeds the cost of doing what is right and just.

First published 07/09/19 in The Garden Island Newspaper

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Hawaii GMO industry footprint shrinks by 50%, plus DOE bans herbicides in all Hawaii public schools –

What if I told you that the application of restricted use pesticides in Hawaii by the largest chemical companies in the world – has been cut by half over the past 7 years?

What if I told you that the Department of Education recently sent out a notice to all public schools in Hawaii telling them herbicides may NOT be used on school grounds?

Well it’s true.

  1. The Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) just announced a ban of herbicide use at all Hawaii public schools.
  2. The USDA just reported that GMO seed corn production has dropped statewide by over 50% – Accompanying this reduction will be a parallel reduction in both general use and restricted use pesticides (yes, I extrapolate…but justifiably so and a reasonable presumption)
  • Combine the above with the passage of SB3095 in 2018, banning chlorpyrifos, requiring mandatory disclosure, and putting in place modest buffer zones around schools for ALL users of restricted use pesticides.

EQUALS –  A huge success in our communities ongoing effort to regulate dangerous chemicals on ALL islands.

Our community is healthier today than it was yesterday because of our combined work and commitment.

None of this would have happened without the active, informed and sustained community engagement supported by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations.

The Heroes of SB3095 – This is what democracy looks like.

DOE announces herbicide ban for all Hawaii public schools.

“Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, after hearing that Roundup was being used on some campuses, sent a memo Tuesday to all principals stressing that herb­icides are banned at Hawaii public schools.

She also called for the immediate removal of any herbicides stored at schools.

The action came after a community meeting Monday evening at Leilehua High School called by Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Payne to hear concerns about the use of herbicides and pesticides at schools. Nearly 60 people attended, including parents, teachers and activists.”  From Honolulu StarAdvertiser 

Hawaii GMO corn production drops by over 50% in past 7 years.

You can be sure there is a direct correlation with related pesticide use…which also has most likely dropped significantly as well. This equates to literally tons of restricted use pesticides that are no longer being used near communities on all islands.

The official numbers speak for themselves.

USDA latest reports on the size of the seed corn industry.

2011/2012 Value of Hawaii seed corn just under $250,000,000
2018/2019 Value of Hawaii seed corn just under $106,000,000

2011/2012 Total acreage of Hawaii seed corn 6,910 acres
2018/2019 Total acreage of Hawaii seed corn 2,530 acres

Summary of gmo seed corn grown in Hawaii

A friend posted on FB in response to the report: “I would like to think that all the noise we made a few years ago had some part in the decline (of gmo corn industry).”

My reply: “I have no doubt…but also no proof that is in fact a huge part of the reason this industry is shrinking and ultimately leaving Hawaii.  With the increased public spotlight on their operations…the increased legal actions in court…and the increased regulation at the State level…all combined…have to have an impact on their business decisions as to where to base and grow their operations.  And by now these companies know…that there is more public action to come…more negative media attention…more legislation and more actions via more lawsuits…#neverquit

FUNDRAISING – or if you prefer…skip to bottom notes below 😉

Yes: Both the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and the Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI) can use your help via a financial contribution.

HAPA is a 501c3 nonprofit which means contributions ARE tax deductible. Online donations to HAPA may be made HERE:

PHI is a 501c4 nonprofit which means contributions ARE NOT tax deductible. Online donations to PHI may be made HERE.

The primary difference between the two organizations is that PHI is more political in nature and more heavily focused on lobbying in support and against various legislative issues.  HAPA is educational in nature and nonpartisan and is limited in the amount of lobbying it may conduct.  The main upcoming program for HAPA is the Kuleana Academy.

I am the volunteer Board President of HAPA and currently the volunteer Executive Director for PHI. Both have totally separate Boards and separate budgets etc. It is a bit complicated, but both organizations are needed and both play a valuable role in moving a positive agenda forward in support of environmental, economic and social justice.

For those that are able, financial support/help is needed TODAY for both organizations.  

Whether the contribution is $20, $200 or $2,000 – any contribution, especially those received prior to July 15 are much needed and greatly appreciated. At this midpoint in the year both organizations are engaged in re-evaluating, strategizing and planning the balance of 2019’s efforts AND getting ready for 2020!

Bottom Notes –
Please take a few more minutes to read through until the end!

Because it has been a while since I last emailed you, and or perhaps this is the first time that you have received my email:  Read more about Gary Hooser here – goals and dreams….a complete bio and some accomplishments.

Items from the Hooser Blog you might enjoy reading:

Marriage Equality – Pride Parades – Legacy Votes

My Graduation Message to Seniors Everywhere

The Sentimental Romantic Favorite – For those interested in hearing how Claudette and I first met “On the occasion of my 39th wedding anniversary”


Additional useful info from USDA and summary of all Hawaii Agriculture

A straightforward description of what Act 45, formerly SB3095 actually does in terms of pesticide regulation.

*NOTE: The word “pesticides” is inclusive of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides etc

Mahalo to all!  This is a time to celebrate our wins and to redouble our efforts.  Imua!  gary

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Marriage Equality – Pride Parades and Legacy Votes

The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Today, LGBTQ Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots. Wikipedia

This past Saturday, Kauai hosted its first Pride Parade. It was a beautiful event and a fabulous success.  Kudo’s to the organizers and all who came out in support.

Kauai and the world has come a long way since those dark days of 1969 and before.  And yes, we still have a long way still to go and the fight for equality and the end of bigotry and discrimination at all levels is never-ending.

In the world of policy and politics there are only a few times in ones career when a vote has truly historical consequences. The vast majority of votes are about money and not about people. Yes, the money for schools, highways, airports and harbors – impact people. But the votes that truly impact the entire population, the kind of votes that change peoples lives – are truly rare.

I served in the Hawaii State Senate from 2002 through 2010. In 2009 as the then Senate Majority Leader I fought hard in support of HB444 which would have legalized Civil Unions as an alternative to marriage. At the time conservative voices in the community viewed the effort as a surreptitious way to legalize same gender marriage, and the battle for its passage turned into one of the biggest public policy fights of my political career. I remember some residents on Kauai purchasing newspaper advertisements saying “Tell Hooser to vote no!”  The capitol rotunda and the hearing rooms were constantly packed with red shirts and white shirts pressing all legislators hard in support or against.

The nearly two year process that it took to ultimately pass HB444 was intense, emotionally draining but also immensely gratifying. To this day I look back upon my work on this effort with great personal satisfaction and an experience that has shaped my life. Fighting the good fight, working so very hard on an issue that truly means something, and then voting my conscience in support of the equality of love – I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

On July 6, 2010 in a room packed with advocates, the measure was veto’ed by then Governor Linda Lingle. It was a heartbreaking moment for many, many people. But while we lost the battle for HB444, in the end 3 years later we won the war.

On 11/14/2013 with then Governor Neil Abercrombie leading the way, a special session of the legislature was convened and the Marriage Equality Act was shepherded into law.

After attending the Pride Parade on Kauai this past Saturday, I decided to review the legislative history of what started out as a draft bill labeled SD1, and ended up as SD1_HD1 and then Act 001 – which is now the law of the land in Hawaii.

While not unanimous, the measure easily sailed through the Senate unamended. In the House a majority of the Republican minority joined with conservative Democrats and formed a coalition of 19 members intent on killing the measure. This group made 29 separate attempts to amend and kill the measure, before it finally passed in the House.

The final votes count as reflected in the official status report and legislative record:

11/8/2013 H Passed Third Reading with roll call vote; 19 voting no Aquino, Awana, Cachola, Carroll, Cullen, Fale, Fukumoto, Har, Ito, Johanson, Jordan, Matsumoto, McDermott, Oshiro, Tokioka, Tsuji, Ward, Woodson, Yamane and 2 excused Cabanilla, Choy. Transmitted to Senate.
11/12/2013 S Passed Final Reading. 19 Aye(s); Aye(s) with reservations: none . 4 No(es): Senator(s) Gabbard, Kim, Kouchi, Slom. 2 Excused: Senator(s) Dela Cruz, Taniguchi.

The four Kauai state legislators were split:

Senator Ronald Kouchi and Representative James Tokioka voted No and against marriage equality.

Representative Dee Morikawa and Representative Derek Kawakami (now Kauai Mayor) voted Yes and in support of marriage equality.

Why does anyone vote a certain way?  

In my experience votes on these types of issues are cast either out of conviction, or fear.  Either the legislator feels morally obligated to vote a certain way, and or they are fearful of the political consequences that accompany the vote.

We can speculate as to why someone votes a certain way or not, but to a large degree that is a wasted exercise. What matters most is the vote itself. Each legislator must justify their own votes to their own constituency and their own family. Their vote is their legacy and they have to own it.

Mahalo to Representative Morikawa and now Mayor Kawakami for your vote in support of marriage equality. I deeply appreciate and thank you for supporting this issue and that critically important vote of November 8, 2013.

“Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us.” Petrarch

First published on 6/26/19 in The Garden Island Newspaper – Policy and Politics, Gary Hooser

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Elements of a campaign: Votes – Money -Team

The 2020 primary election is on August 8, 2020.

Next week Thursday the first presidential debates will be held.

In June of 2020 the first “absentee ballots” will be mailed out.  

For the first time in our history, every single registered voter in the state of Hawaii will receive a ballot in the mail and given time to respond by the August 8th deadline.

Given there are only 12 months available to mount and run a credible campaign, anyone thinking about running for public office should already be organizing that effort. While the door knocking and sign waving locally are perhaps (but not necessarily) still a few months away, serious candidates will be doing the research, organizing their team and putting the word out to the community of their intent to run.

Hawaii is essentially a one party state, which means the primary election is EVERYTHING.  Even non-partisan elections for the County Council are more often than not decided in the primary election with only minor changes occurring in the general election.  

The primary election is where the rubber meets the road and it’s 12 months away.

New candidates by now have reviewed the 2016 and 2018 primary election results available on the Office of Elections website.  By reviewing the “win numbers” in these election cycles, they can tell with some certainty “how many votes they need to win”.  Further they can see exactly “where those votes are” precinct by precinct.  

Technologically akamai candidates can access voter files that will tell them exactly who voted, in what precinct, and in which election – we are talking name, address and sometimes telephone number. The voter files will not reveal who the person voted for, but will indicate whether or not that particular person voted, and whether it was in the Primary and/or the General.

A candidate thus should know exactly how many votes they need to win, and where exactly those votes can be found. When knocking on doors the candidate can if he/she chooses, only knock on the doors of residents who voted in the most recent primary election. By maximizing the use of voter file technology, instead of knocking on every door once (as in the old days), they can choose to knock only on the doors of residents who actually vote and more than double their efficiency. 

Why knock on the doors of people who don’t vote? Why spend money on mailing campaign literature to people who don’t vote? Unfortunately, this strategy while extremely efficient, contributes to the disaffection of those very same groups. A compromise to this political and moral dilemma perhaps is to make some effort to reach out to nonvoters, but focus the lions share of the energy toward people that you absolutely know are going to vote.  There is not enough time nor resources to do it all.

By examining the Office of Elections data from the past Primary elections, candidates can also evaluate the strength and weakness of the incumbent they may be running against. What precincts did they do well in? If the incumbent was challenged in the past, where did the challengers votes come from? If the incumbent ran unopposed, what was the number of “blank votes” and from which precincts?

Money of course is a key component of the formula as well.  How many votes do you need and how much money do you need to get them?

We all know the stories of elections being won with very little to no money at all. Yes, that is possible…but you are kidding yourself majorly if you go down this path and truly expect to win.

So just how much does it cost to run a credible campaign in Hawaii? My “back of the envelope” response is at least $25,000 to $35,000.  This amount is sufficient to purchase yard signs, banners, bumper stickers, some advertisements here and there, and a few direct mail pieces to voters in the district.  In my experience, this is a minimum starting point for most State House races.  

If you are a credible candidate, you need to be able to raise these funds – otherwise by definition you are not credible.  A typical breakdown might be $10,000 from 100 people giving $100, $10,000 from 200 people giving $50, and the rest from family or others who believe in you and are willing to put up the funds needed to support your effort.

Do the homework. Visit the Campaign Spending Commission website and search the reports of any and all candidates. Here you can see how much money each candidate raised, who gave it to them and what they spent the money on.  

Of course hard fought races against entrenched incumbents can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to wage. Yes, exceptional candidates can win with very little money, but they must certainly make up for the lack of funds via sweat equity – starting earlier and out-working the competition.  But a certain amount of yard signs, banners and mailers/walking pieces are essential and a campaign will not look credible without them.

Yes, you also need a team. First and foremost you need a treasurer. You do not want to mess up on your bank account book-keeping or campaign finance reports. You need someone who is organized and can keep track of the money and receipts. And you need a campaign manager, or at least a trusted friend who will spend the time needed to help brainstorm and plan and strategize and recruit other volunteers. The reality is just a handful of people will do most of the work. On occasion it’s nice to have a hundred people on the highway holding signs, reality is that if you can maintain a dozen “go to” regular volunteers to help knock on doors, count yourself lucky.

At the end of the day, the bottom line advice is to “go for it”.  If you are not pleased with the status quo, if you think you have what it takes, if you have roots in the community you hope to represent and if you have some record of community involvement and leadership (PTA, canoe club chair, Rotary, Sierra Club or whatever) – then yes go for it.  

Competition is good for democracy.

First published in The Garden Island newspaper, June 19, 2019

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