The Election Day Heroes Of 2006
Wednesday - January 10, 2007
Before I let go of 2006, allow me to acknowledge some of my heroes of the past year - in this instance, all of whom were losers.
Starting with Randy Iwase. Facing the prospect of a race against a popular incumbent with oodles of money, a bank president, a county mayor, a former Honolulu police chief and half-a-dozen others passed on seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor.
So Iwase offered himself. He’d been out of elective office for six years, had never held any office above that of state senator, and knew the campaign would be long, lonely and probably futile.
But at the end, he had only one regret. “I wish I had had the money to get our message out,” he says. “Tourism, construction and the military will only take us so far. We need innovation industries. Gov. Lingle doesn’t seem to understand this; she’s yet to articulate a vision for Hawaii’s future.
“But I didn’t have the money. When all the reporting’s done, I’ll probably have raised and spent a little over $400,000 - $60,000 of which was a loan to myself. In the last two weeks of the campaign, we raised $10,000 from small donors, mostly long-time party people. It came in the form of $25, $50 and $100 donations.
“Money plays a tremendous role in a gubernatorial campaign. Gov. Lingle spent an obscene amount. For the life of me, I don’t see why anyone needs to spend $6 million to get re-elected.
“The public has the power to reform campaign spending - by not supporting $6 million campaigns.”
Iwase feels the press gave him short shrift: “Both papers and TV news decided the governor’s race was a foregone conclusion, so they didn’t give it the attention it deserved.”
Given the lack of money and media attention, would Iwase do it again? “Sure, for the reasons I ran in the first place. Lingle offered the voters a record of public relations, and the future is too important to be led by public relations alone.
“I wish we’d had money. I don’t mean with $1.5 million we could necessarily have beaten her, but the electorate would have been better informed.
“But I can’t be bitter or angry - about money or the media or anything else, because then I’d have to call myself naïve.
Believe me, I went into the campaign with my eyes open.”
And Iwase saw some wonderful things: “Our family drew much closer this past year. My wife Jan kept working throughout the campaign, but when her work day was over she joined me at dinners, fund-raisers, unity rallies - whatever. And my three boys held signs and canvassed districts.
“My family and our supporters maintained their enthusiasm throughout. They all knew the odds. And they were disappointed with us when we lost. But I will always appreciate their effort.”
Iwase, of course, experienced something new for a gubernatorial candidate with a “D” behind his name, i.e., hopelessness. For to have gone into the campaign with “eyes (completely) open,” Iwase would have had to have spent a long afternoon in conversation with former state Sen. John Leopold or Sen. Fred Hemmings.
Both Republicans experienced the futility of taking on obscenely well-funded gubernatorial incumbents - in the case of Leopold, Democrat George Ariyoshi in 1978; in the case of Hemmings, Democrat John Waihee in 1990. Both men, like Iwase, had known legislative success. Both, like Iwase, received scant attention from the media during their campaigns. Both, like Iwase, got clobbered on general election day.
In 2006 a lot of candidates - Republican and Democrat alike, up and down the ballot from governor to state House to county council - faced futility from the day they announced their candidacies.
But if we would listen, they offered us a choice - alternative visions of the present and the future.
And that is what democracy, at its best, is all about.
Each and every one of them was an election day hero or heroine. We should toast them all; in their service to Hawaii’s voters, they were all winners in 2006.
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