A Few Primary Political Lessons

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - September 22, 2010
| Del.icio.us

My dear, dear 11 regular readers,

I understand. You come to your omnipotent MidWeek political seer in search of enlightenment: “Why did ‘X’ win the Democratic primary?” you ask, “Why did ‘Y’ lose? Why was my guy a no-show? And who da guy ‘Z’who won the prosecutor’s job? And where was my voting place?”

I hang my head in shame. My beloved readers seek wisdom, and I offer nothing. As you read today, of course, I know. But as I write, four days before primary election day, I haven’t a clue who won anything - only hunches.

But the primary election season, no matter who won Saturday night, offered some lessons. Allow the unemployed professor to mention a few of them:

First, he who runs for an office, wins it, then leaves before the completion of his term should be required to contribute half of all funds in his campaign treasury to help defray the costs of a special election. Oh, I know, I have in the past argued that a special election is the price we must pay for a democracy. But the cost of special elections in the age of heedlessly ambitious politicians (Try the names Abercrombie, Hannemann, Carlisle and Apo.) has become too high.


But someone will respond: “You fail to note, near-sighted columnist, that Hannemann’s and Carlisle’s abandonment of their offices cost the taxpayers nothing. The special elections for the incompleted terms were simply held to coincide with the primary.”

To be sure, but the voters paid a high price in terms of their knowledge of the candidates running to fill the remaining two years of Hannemann’s and Carlisle’s term. Quick now: Who is Don Paccaro? Darwin Ching? What do you know about them? Oh, but you’ve heard the name Keith Kaneshiro for prosecutor and Peter Carlisle for mayor, so you’re left to vote on the basis of name recognition alone.

Make them pay. They all broke a trust they made with the voters only one or two years ago: Carlisle, Hannemann and Apo to serve four-year terms, Abercrombie to serve a two-year term. They reneged; they should pay.

Lesson No. 2: We need a Hawaii state debate commission, made up of representatives from the political parties, the media and the community. Let’s make University of Hawaii president M.R.C. Greenwood commission chair. The Greenwood Commission would schedule a series of gubernatorial debates - six, perhaps, each an hour long - focused on a single issue or two closely related issues: one on education, another on business and economic development, a third on the cost of government, a fourth on sustainable energy and agriculture, a fifth on health and social services. The commercial television stations, PBS-Hawaii and Hawaii Public Radio would each be asked to produce one of the debates and rebroadcast it at least once.

Participation in all of the debates would be required for admission to candidacy. A similar series could be established for mayoral or congressional candidates.

Let the folks see them side by side, repeatedly, on a variety of issues. No dodging allowed. No hiding behind money and the advertising it buys.


Lesson No. 3: We need an appointed school board. Less than a week before the primary, a friend of many years calls me: “Dan,” he asks plaintively, “who should I vote for for school board?”

He trusts me. He knows I spend a perverse amount of my time following local politics. I should be able to help him. But I reply: “Damned if I know. I’ll get back to you.”

Few know whom to vote for. So we turn to the Hawaii State Teachers Association or the few signs we see posted. We don’t have much to go on - which means it isn’t much of an election.

End of lessons.

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