Tulsi, Kahele…and the candidate stampede to follow

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement that she would not be running for re-election, caught Hawaii’s political world by surprise.

Initially, conventional wisdom would say that Big Island State Senator Kai Kahele is the heir apparent.

But those more skilled in the sometimes dark arts of political maneuvering would say, “Perhaps, but then again perhaps not”.

To be clear, I like Senator Kahele. Though I do not know him well, his actions and his words during the past year indicate to me that at the end of the day he will choose people and the planet, over corporate greed.

How hard he will push back against the power and influence that maintain and perpetuate the status quo in Washington, D.C., I do not know. Whether he will fall into the trap of going along to get along, also remains to be seen. Of course, these same two questions apply to every candidate, for every office – federal, state, and county.

But so far, I like what I see, and think he is a good candidate who if elected, would serve Hawaii well.

However, the political reality is that at the moment, there are no other candidates and thus no one to measure him against.

Very soon other candidates will emerge, of this, I am absolutely sure.

The allure of a primary with no incumbent is simply too strong to resist.

Yes, Senator Kahele has a head start and yes, his campaign has apparently raised over $500,000, which indeed is a respectable sum.

However, there are at least a dozen others either now serving, or sitting on the bench who have similar or even greater name recognition, credible resumes, and the ability to raise the funds necessary to run a competitive race.

These 12 and undoubtedly, even more, are at this very moment discussing with friends, family, and potential donors – whether to jump, or not.

Each potential candidate is asking the same questions. How strong is my name recognition compared to Senator Kahele? Is my base of friends and supporters within the Second Congressional District (CD2), which is dominated by the neighbor islands, strong and diverse enough? How many of them might already be committed to Senator Kahele? Can I raise the money needed to win?

Very soon, someone who perhaps already has the money and the name recognition will jump in, and then in short order others will follow.

As more candidates enter the race, those with less fundraising capacity but perhaps strong name recognition and a dedicated base of supporters will likewise be emboldened to enter.

Prediction: Eventually there will be 6 to 9 credible Democrats splitting up the votes and battling it out for this much-coveted seat in the US Congress.

Further fueling the number of candidates jumping into the fray will be State Senators midway through their 4-year terms (as is Senator Kahele), with no requirement to resign their State Senate seat.

Add to the potential mix of credible candidates several City Council members who are terming out of their existing positions, and could also be interested.

Because Hawaii is essentially a one-party state, winning the primary on August 8, 2020, is everything. In the age of Trump, there is no way that voters in this particular district will elect a Republican to Congress – remember the CD2 is Patsy Minks district.

A crowded primary with no incumbent means it’s winner take all, and garnering a majority of the vote is not needed to win.

That’s correct – the winner need not have a majority to win. A plurality of any amount is sufficient to win the primary and move to the general where a symbolic, sacrificial and unelectable Republican will simply be holding space for their Party.

In the 2006 CD2 race, the dynamics were similar. In that race, 10 Democrats threw their hats in the ring. On primary election day, now US Senator Mazie Hirono was declared the winner after receiving only 20.7% of the vote.

I repeat, Mazie Hirono won with only 20.7% of the vote. For me, the memory is of course vivid.

Former Senate President (and eventually Congresswoman) Colleen Hanabusa came in second with 20%. Yours truly, then Senator Gary Hooser came in 5th at 9.7% just ahead of then State Representative Brian Schatz (now US Senator) at 7%. See the complete list and exact vote counts in the attached graphic.

In theory, the more candidates that enter the race, the smaller the slice of the vote pie potentially needed to win. Thus, candidates with a “strong base” (ideological, geographic, demographic or issue centered) but who might struggle to appeal to a broader majority, are especially drawn to enter the contest.

Hence the allure of a crowded primary with no incumbent.

Everyone who enters the race will believe their base is sufficient to win the day. Excessive optimism – it’s the nature of the beast carried within every candidate.

First published in The Garden Island Newspaper on October 30, 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.) www.hapahi.org 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) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “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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15 Responses to Tulsi, Kahele…and the candidate stampede to follow

  1. Judith Flanders says:

    Gary, there is only one 21st Century Politician in the state and that is you; please consider……..

    • garyhooser says:

      Thank you Judith for your generous comment of support. Honestly, I do not know what role in making the world a better place is right for me. Some would say the role I am in now is the place I should be and serves best in achieving our common goals. Others encourage me to run…for something 😉 While I have not gotten running for something out of my blood yet…I remain unclear as to what might be the best seat for me to aspire to…and if that option is a feasible one…and perhaps again…staying right where I am might be the right decision. As I tell all of my friends who aspire to serve in public office – “Always be ready and never say never”. Mahalo!

  2. James brady says:

    What are your thoughts on the reason(s) Tulsi decided to quit Congress? Would the main reason be her gearing up for a third party Presidential run the way Stein cleared the way for Trump 1?

    • garyhooser says:

      I really don’t know James. A third-party​ run would be a disaster for us and assure Trump’s reelection.

      • Anika says:

        Come on, name names.

      • garyhooser says:

        Ha! The names will reveal themselves shortly…of that we can be sure. They will not let Senator Kahele walk through this unopposed.

      • Anika says:

        It’s Tulsi’s unpredictable nature which makes District 2 so unenthusiastic about her being in any position. Her actions are calculated, never impulsive, but they always appear impulsive, surprising, even alarming. Her actions have unclear motivations. Hillary took speculating about her intentions to a whole new level.

      • James brady says:

        I don’t know any more than you, But her skipping a democratic campaign event only to show up on Fox for an interview looked fishy to me.

      • Alexa von Alemann says:

        Indeed! I am still a Democrat but some deep cleaning is in order after the manipulations of the DNC in 2016 primary. Their brazen response of “so what, we can do what we want” did not sit well with Hawaii voters like me, who overwhelmingly voted for Bernie Sanders. I ended up voting for Jill Stein.
        Please, realize that the Clinton stranglehold on Democratic Party NEEDS to STOP! If her protege Kahele wins, we end up with BOTH OUR CONGRESSMEN being Clinton’s proxies. As you know, Brian Schatz was well connected – his twin brother is married to Madeline Albright’s daughter. Albright served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. Do you not think that their generous contributions to his campaign put Schatz in the seat? He had NO name recognition here, whatsoever. They are now grooming Kahele. He, in turn, decides to smear Tulsi on CNN, spouting baseless accusations. He is a spineless shill who’ll do anything for Clinton support. Quid pro quo. I hope voters see through this sad charade and vote for someone with integrity.

    • Jon Olsen says:

      More slander against Dr. Jill Stein. just as they did with Ralph Nader! BS all the way to the barn! In 2016 we had probably the worst 2 major party candidates in US history! And you have the gall to blame Jill? Most of us Greens would have stayed home rather than vote for the queen of corruption or the airhead now in power. it is like being asked “Would you rather be poisoned to death or hanged?”

      • James Brady says:

        No slander intended Jon. A review of the seven key states that made Donald Trump the president elect, shows that Stein’s vote total was higher than Trump’s margin in two of those states: Wisconsin and Michigan. In addition, in Florida, the combined vote total for Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson was higher than Trump’s margin of victory. Facts are facts. Choose your poison.

      • Jon Olsen says:

        James, You are making linear arguments when the situation is far more complex. First, as I have said, it is disingenuous to assume that all who voted for a third party would have gone Dem. No basis for that at all, especially Libertarians who generally would be more likely to vote Rep.
        Second, Hilary was a despised candidate for any number of reasons,which I won’t belabor here. The Dems have yet to acknowledge that, going all out for “The Russians did it” ridiculous hypothesis. Bernie would most likely have beaten Trump decisively, but the DNC sabotaged his campaign.
        Third, Politicians have to EARN the votes and Ms. Clinton did not. I was glad she lost, but despaired that Trump did. All the more reason to build third parties into a potent force.

      • garyhooser says:

        Jon. Please settle down on the rhetoric and strong words. James and others have the right to their opinions and have not slandered or bashed anyone. Your choice of words, “disingenuous”, “despised” , “ridiculous”…are not words that are conducive to a civil discussion. I don’t wish to play referee or have to monitor these comments. Thank you for understanding. gh

  3. Cathy Goeggel says:

    NEVER CALDWELL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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