So Who’s This Gary Hooser Guy?

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - February 08, 2006

Gary Hooser wants to represent the people of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.

“Who?” you ask.

Gary Hooser, that who.

He currently represents Kauai and Niihau in the state Senate - and has for the past four years. In the middle of a four-year term, he won’t have to give up his seat to make the run for Congress, so will continue to serve those islands if he finishes anywhere but first in the increasingly crowded second district.

Many Oahu voters have undoubtedly never heard of Hooser. And he knows it:

“I jumped in quickly to establish myself as a credible candidate and not allow myself to get lost in the crowd.”

Hooser also knows that to gain name recognition for himself money will be needed. He estimates that a successful congressional race will cost $600,000, maybe $1 million.

“I’ve raised $160,000 to run for the Senate,” he says, “and my district constitutes 1/12 of the congressional district.

“But money is not the end all. You have to get in front of people, talk to them, and make a connection. I have to get to all those doors before Sept. 23. I don’t have to match my opponents dollar for dollar, and I think I can make that connection. I have in my state senate races. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.”

Including trying to scare others out of the race.

The day after Ed Case announced his plans to run for the U.S. Senate, Hooser called a news conference to say that he wanted the still warm congressional seat.

Hooser’s been considering a congressional run for several years. “I just think of the opportunity and honor of serving in Congress,” he says, “of dealing with issues like hunger, health care and world peace.”

Hooser defines himself as a “traditional Democrat. I care about the environment, about working people, about maintaining a strong safety net, about seeing that all Americans receive a good education. I really want to help people, and I believe that government has an important role to play in balancing some of the inequities in life.”

On the controversial issue of abortion, Hooser says that he supports “a woman’s right to choose, but I don’t support abortion as a birth control measure.”

Hooser’s people come from Oklahoma and Arkansas. His parents migrated to a place called Weedpatch, Calif., then to Honolulu in 1970.

Hooser graduated from Radford High School. He worked construction, in restaurants, as a pedicab driver in Waikiki.

“I am rich in experience,” he says.

Including a job with the E.K. Fernandez Shows. Linda Fernandez liked him, and when the company launched a Fun Factory on Kauai she asked Hooser to move to the Garden Island to run it.

In 1985, Hooser and a friend launched H and S Publishing Company - a “tough business,” in Hooser’s telling. He also did real estate, while wife Claudette worked customer service for United Air Lines in Lihue.

While working and raising two children, Hooser went to Kauai Community College and the University of Hawaii-West Oahu. “I was the first person in my family to receive a college degree,” he says.

He caught the political virus in the early ‘90s and ran unsuccessfully for the Kauai County Council in 1994. Four years later, he won a council seat. Since 2002 he’s represented “the largest Senate district in the state, 16,800 votes cast two years ago.”

Hooser hopes Kauai will provide his congressional candidacy with “a strong Democratic base.” Having served on the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, he’s also looking for support from the environmental community and “various labor groups.”

As vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee, Hooser takes pride in the “important role I played in fashioning Act 51, the Education Reform bill.”

That’s Gary Hooser 101.

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