An Older, Wiser Menor Tries Again

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - February 15, 2006

Ron Menor made his first bid for Hawaii’s Second Congressional District seat 16 years ago. He faced former Congresswoman Patsy Mink, Mufi Hannemann and State Sen. Mike Crozier. He finished third.

So what makes him think he can do in 2006 what he could-n’t do in 1990?

“In order to win a congressional seat, you need a network of friends and supporters throughout the district,” says Menor, “and in 1990 I didn’t have the kind of network I have now.

“As chair of a key senate committee, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, I’ve had opportunities to travel throughout the state to hold hearings and meet with leaders in both the public and private sectors.

“I also have greater credibility and name recognition than I had then. I have a more solid track record of legislative accomplishment. As committee chair, I’ve been involved in landmark legislation regarding auto insurance and workers’ compensation reform, healthcare, gas pricing and the Hawaii RX-plus legislation.

“I think this time voters will conclude that I have been a strong supporter of legislation that benefits working men and women in Hawaii. Several unions, for example, have indicated that they will support my candidacy.”

Menor had another problem 16 years ago. Despite his law degree and his obvious intelligence, in 1990 Menor looked like a kid considerably younger than his then 34 years. Today he still looks younger than his age, 50, but there’s a dusting of gray at the temples and he speaks with a little of the weariness of the father of three active boys, a 14-year-old and two 8-year-old twins.

“That’s my real job,” says Menor, “raising three kids. My experience as a father and providing care for my mother, who’s disabled, have made me more sensitive to problems people confront every day.”

Menor brings impressive legislative experience, a sparkling resume, and a historic name to the congressional race. His grandfather Angelo Menor immigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines in 1925 to work on the Ola’a plantation on the Island of Hawaii. Ron’s father, Ben Menor, became one of Territory’s first Filipino lawyers and served 10 years in the state legislature himself before becoming a judge - and eventually the first Filipino to serve on the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

Ron Menor was born and reared in Hilo, attended schools there until his father’s appointment to the high court. “My roots and values come from the sakada generation,” says Menor. “My father shared stories of the hardships of plantation life, and I remember fondly the weekends I spent on my grand-father’s papaya farm in Pahoa.”

Menor graduated from Iolani High School, gave the commencement address at his graduation from UCLA, and studied for his law degree from Georgetown University. While a law student in Washington, D.C., he worked as a legislative intern in then Congressman Danny Akaka’s office.

Menor characterizes himself as a “progressive Democrat with a strong consumer record, and I want to be a strong consumer advocate in Congress.” He says that he’s “disheartened by the bad legislation passed in recent years: unfunded mandates and the Medicare prescription drug program. Laws like that need to be cleaned up.”

On the United States’ invasion of Iraq, Menor says that he would have voted against congressional authorization: “I think it was a huge mistake. President Bush did not have a clear strategy to win and provide for a safe transition. The whole effort was ill-conceived and poorly thought out.

“We should have done more on the diplomatic front and imposed stronger sanctions to rein in Saddam’s Hussein’s regime.”

Menor feels the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind educational initiative was also ill-conceived.

“It overemphasizes testing on math and science at the expense of everything else,” he says. “It was well-intentioned legislation, but it needs to be improved and amended.”

Menor’s principal advisor on education issues? Wife Pat, a third grade teacher at Helemanu Elementary School in Whitmore Village.

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