Post election debrief from Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative, “So how did we do?”

For those that value putting people and the planet ahead of profits – I’m calling it a win.

While the national results remain close, it’s clear from a “blue perspective” that we did much better than was being projected almost universally by political pundits on both sides of the aisle. Let’s give a big “hurrah” for John Fetterman, send our love and aloha to Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke, and pray that our friends in Georgia will step up for Warnock.

Below are my thoughts and a summary of what happened last night, focusing only on candidates that were endorsed by Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative (PHI).

Obviously, there are many candidates who came out on top in their bid for election who were not endorsed by PHI. Some did not seek our endorsement, some did not need it, and some did not want it. But all deserve our heartfelt congratulations for being willing to serve, and for doing the work needed to win. My hope is that all who have been elected will seek to serve in a manner that is honest, open, and collaborative.

Fern Anuenue Holland whom I have known and worked with for years finished a strong #9 but was out of the running in a 7-member Kauaʻi Council race. Fern is verifiably awesome, and an incredibly hard worker with a deep commitment to her community. This was Fern’s first attempt County Council race and I am confident and extremely hopeful that she will run again and win election in the future.

Congratulations are in order for Dr. Addison Bulosan in his second attempt at election to serve on the Kauai County Council slammed it home finishing in a very strong #3 position on the 7-member roster. I was greatly pleased to see him quoted in the media this morning saying that his top priority is to support additional affordable housing construction and use increased taxes on transient vacation rentals (TVR) to pay for it.

Huge kudos also to first-time candidate Matt Weyer who fended off a “big name” and won an important seat at the table of the Honolulu City Council. Unfortunately, my former colleague in the State Senate, Ron Menor came up short in his bid to come back to the Council. Tommy Waters, not surprisingly totally dominated his race and returns to the good work he has been doing on the Council.

On Maui, the progressive block of 4 held on to their Council seats but was not able to reach that vital #5 majority. Mahalo plenty to Keani Rawlins-Fernandez – Molokai, Gabe Johnson – Lanai, Tamara Paltin – West Maui, and Shane Sinenci – East Maui. If ever there was a dream team this is it. My hope is that this journey will only strengthen the bonds and mutual commitment that have led to so many incredible accomplishments for Maui County.

The voters of Maui also elected 3 very strong mana wahine to serve in the State House of Representatives: Terez Amato, District 11 (South Maui), Mahina Poepoe, District 13 (Haiku, Ko’olau, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Paia, Lanai, Moloka’i), Elle Cochran, District 14 (West Maui, Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu).

First-time Maui Council candidates who did not make it this time: Noelani Ahia – Wailuku, Waihee, Waikapu, Nara Boone – Makawao, Haiku, Paia, Jordan Hocker – Upcountry, and Robin Knox – South Maui. These 4 should hold their heads high as all represented their communities well, all ran strong campaigns, and I hope all will run again in 2024.

A special shout-out to Jenn Kagiwada who in her very first election attempt succeeded in securing a seat on the Hawaii Island County Council. She joins a stellar group including Heather Kimball, Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, and Rebecca Villegas.

State House candidate Natalia Hussey-Burdick (Kailua, Kāne’ohe) prevailed finishing very strong against a well-funded anti-choice opponent. Natalia probably deserves the “best campaign award” as she did it all by knocking on doors, holding signs on the highway, attending coffee hours and community meetings, telephone and text banking, investing in social media and traditional media, direct mail, and raising the funds to make it all happen while rejecting PAC and big business/development money.

Progressive incumbents in the State House who also will be coming back include: Amy Perruso, District 46 (Wahiawā, Whitmore Village, Launani Valley), Sonny Ganaden, District 30 (Kalihi Kai, Pearl Harbor/Hickam), Adrian Tam, District 24 (Waikiki, McCully, Moiliili) and Jeanné Kapela, District 5 (North Kona, South Kona, West Ka’u).

Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly for me, Corey Rosenlee, District 39 (‘Ewa, Waipahu, Kunia, Ho’opili, Waikele) was not able to garner the votes needed. My hope is he will give it another go in 2024 as his values and strength of character would be a huge asset to the institution. Matt LoPresti, District 41 (Ocean Pointe, Hoakalei, ‘Ewa Gentry, ‘Ewa Beach, Kalaeloa, Ko Olina) also struggled to gain traction and fell short. His consistent vote in support of progressive issues will be missed.

Of the 10 Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative endorsed candidates for the State House, 8 made it through the night. To no one’s surprise, another former State Senate colleague and now U.S. Congresswoman Jill Tokuda won a resounding victory in her quest to serve the CD2.

So, as is normally the case – we won some and we lost some.

We must remember to honor, respect, and offer our deep appreciation to those who were willing to “put it out there” on our behalf, but who fell short.

We must also remember that merely casting a vote is not enough. We must show up to testify and to support those who we helped elect. We must back them up. When they are facing the inevitable pressures from big money interests – we must fill the room and push back.

As someone who has felt the sting and the pain of losing my own first race – I know how it hurts. I also know the tremendous personal satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that you are engaged in something important and meaningful.

To all of you who ran – I say thank you. Your willingness to put yourself out in the public light, to do the work, and to make the personal sacrifices needed in order to run the campaigns that you did, is greatly appreciated.

Gary Hooser

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 Post election debrief from Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative, “So how did we do?”

  1. Jon Olsen says:

    Thanks for this report. Jon in Maine. I knew Natalie’s parents, Alan Burdick and Ramona Hussey who were early Greens with me circa 1990-95 or so.Jon

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