This is for my Political Science students, and may represent for the astute political observer a very rudimentary analysis of this month’s primaries.
2016 was not a good year for progressives. On election night, I followed the results with Ikaika Lardizabal Husseyʻs campaign (he ran for State House to represent Kalihi), and some of his supporters were involved in the Kuleana trainings, which prepared progressive candidates for electoral success. Ikaika was one of those progressive candidates who was unsuccessful, even with the active support of the union Local 5, receiving just 28%to John Mizuno’s 68% (some ballots were blank, but far fewer than in previous elections, when voters only had Mizuno to choose from). Progressives’ best hope was Tiare Lawrence from Maui, and even she was unable to unseat the incumbent. In fact, the only successful progressive candidates were those who were already in office, like Della Bellati of Makiki-Tantalus and Kaniela Ing of South Maui. In a year of “throw the bums out” (what, after all do Trump and Bernie Sanders represent?), this was quite strange. It was as if, on the local level, the message was the reverse.
As for Honolulu mayoral race, Kirk Caldwell managed to reverse a 9 point deficit, and defeat Charles Djou and all comers (including former Mayor Peter Carlisle), setting up a showdown in November against Djou. The rhetoric on rail, reached the point of absurdity, with Djou campaigning on the idea of changing the type of rail at this late date – to rubber, rather than steel-on-steel. It seems impractical, and more likely impossible that such a change can happen, but Djou is doing what he feels he must to get elected. Sometimes I wonder if most people in town, East Honolulu and Windward donʻt ever go past Salt Lake and thus donʻt realize that the rail is already built – thereʻs no stopping it – and if Djou is capitalizing on that ignorance, or is even that ignorant himself. Overall, thereʻs not much change to the politics of rail that I donʻt comment on below (from previous election cycles).
As for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs: Mililani Trask’s upset of OHA chair Bob Lindsey may have surprised some, but she was, after all, an OHA trustee in the past. What has been more surprising is the growing support for Kealiʻi Akina, whose platform would undermine OHA main purpose of the last 15 years – the drive for Federal recognition (Fed rec). Itʻs unclear how many voters know that this is his agenda. One could take his vote count – about 100,000, or nearly ten percent of the population – as a measure of the opposition to mainstream Hawaiian goals. To be fair, there are a small number supporters of Akina whoʻse support is precisely the reverse of this – they oppose Fed rec in favor of independence – Keliʻi Makekau, himself a candidate, is an example of this group (Makekau was a plaintiff on the lawsuit that prevented Naʻi Aupuni from ratifying their vote – for more on this, click here).