Know your policy maker – eyeball to eyeball

We agreed last week that the most important thing to every politician is to get elected and stay elected.  We also agreed that this is not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact is human nature.

And, we agreed there would be a test in todays column. So here goes…

Who represents you in the State House of Representatives, the State Senate and on the County Council?

My experience when asking people this question around the state is that most people don’t know who represents them in government. They might know the governors name or other random political names, but not the fundamentally most important name – which is that of their own districts representative/senator/council-member.

If every elected official loves serving and wants to be re-elected, then obviously that makes you and the rest of the voters who live in the district, the most important people they must satisfy.

And you don’t even know their name. How do you possibly then exercise the influence that you inherently have? The answer of course is you don’t and you can’t…unless an until you know their name and reach out to them so ultimately they know your name as well. This is the core nature of political influence – relationships. If you don’t know their name, there is no relationship and consequently no influence. None. Nada. Zero.

We live in a community where it is possible to actually know your elected officials personally (at the state and county level anyway). If you lived in California or New York or most other places on the continent, the odds of actually meeting and speaking directly with your elected policy makers would be slim to none. In our community, they are only a phone call away.  But you gotta know who to call.  

Please, get to know their names and call them now – today. The entire list of state representatives and senators can be found at (editor note…please leave ask is and spelled out)

On Kauai it’s very simple.  

Kauai which is Senate District 8, has a single state senator and his name is Ronald Kouchi. He also happens to be the senate president. And yes, this is the senate seat I occupied from 2002 until 2010 (and that is another story). 

Hawaii State Senator’s are elected to 4 year terms, without term limits. In 2020, Senator Kouchi is up for re-election. 

Remember last week we also agreed that “counting” was the most important skill to learn. There are 25 state senators and Kauai has one.  

Maui County has 3 state senators. The Big Island has 4 and the island of Oahu has 17.

Kauai has 3 state representatives, for 3 House Districts: 

District 14 (Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea, Anahola, Kapaa, Wailua) Nadine Nakamura, District 15 (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao) James Kunane Tokioka and District 16 (Niihau, Lehua, Koloa, Waimea) Dee Morikawa.

The State House of Representatives is a two year term with no term limits.  Thus every seat is open to a challenge in the 2020 elections.

Maui County has 6 state representatives. The Big Island has 7 and the island of Oahu has 35.  And of course, majority rules!

When it comes to the County Council, things are a bit more complicated.

Kauai County has an “at large” system. This means that all 7 members of the Kauai County Council are elected by all residents, which in theory means we each have 7 individual councilmembers that we can call upon. They are: Arryl Kaneshiro (Chair), Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Felicia Cowden, Luke Evslin, Ross Kagawa and KipuKai Kuali’i.

All 7 Kauai council seats are open in 2020. While it is likely that most of the members of the council will be running for re-election, Ross Kagawa is “termed out” and cannot run.

The other 3 counties each have 9 member councils and each use some form of “district voting and/or district representation”.  Maui County uses an “at large” voting system, but requires candidates to live in and represent specific districts (even though all residents vote for all districts). Hawaii County and the City and County of Honolulu have a more traditional district system where candidates are voted upon only by residents who live in that particular district.

We live in a place where you can call up your state and county elected officials and actually meet with them in person to discuss issues that are important to you.  This is the next test and challenge for those of you who are serious about making an impact on the actions or inactions of local government.

So please, reach out and call or email your elected policy maker who represents you, in your district.

Gather together a group of friends and neighbors, or classmates at school and schedule a meeting with your councilmember, your state representative or your state senator.  I will guarantee you that they will agree to meet and discuss any topic over which they have some influence or jurisdiction. Then, when you do meet with them, share your concerns and hopes about your neighborhood and your community – face to face, eyeball to eyeball.

If for some reason they do not return your telephone call or email, or otherwise refuse to meet with you – please let me know.  That fact alone would be worth its own special Wednesday column in The Garden Island and blog post!

*First published in The Garden Island newspaper on June 12, 2019

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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1 Response to Know your policy maker – eyeball to eyeball


    Ron…. needs a talk story on the north shore me thinks.


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