What Politicians Are Made Of

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - October 06, 2010
| Del.icio.us

“What are little girls made of?” asks the poet. “Sugar and spice and everything nice.” And little boys? “Snakes and snails, and puppy dog tails. That’s what little boys are made of.”

Then what are aspiring Hawaii politicians made of?

“Shoe leather and ambition, and probably religion,” says the scribe.

Let’s start with shoe leather. Four-term state representative and defeated 2010 mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell walked his Manoa district nine times during his six years in the House.

In representative District 31, Moanalua Valley and Salt Lake, Democrat Linda Ichiyama had, two weeks before the primary election, done four-and-one-half circuits of her district. She started in February, and I shudder to think how many more doorbells she’ll ring before Nov. 2. Who knows? Ichiyama - who took 68 percent of the vote in a four-person Democratic primary - may eclipse Caldwell’s nine walk-throughs in eight years in one year. Yikes.

When I mentioned Ichiyama’s phenomenal walkin’ skills to 6th District City Council candidate John White, he practically scoffed: “Linda’s district is full of condominiums. It’s easy to walk those. You just leave your literature in a pile in the lobby. I’ve walked my entire council district twice.”

The 6th is a lot of district; it runs from Mililani to Haleiwa and up and down the Windward coast. That is, indeed, a lot of walking - maybe equal to seven or eight trips around Moanalua Valley and Salt Lake.

Then there’s the waving: in the morning, in the evening, day after day, night after night - sucking in those exhaust fumes, tossing those shaka signs, pretending to recognize the driver leaning on his horn despite the blinding glare from his windshield. Walkin’ and wavin’, walkin’ and wavin’ - for weeks, for months. It’s all a form of shoe leather.

What makes them do it? Ambition, pure and simple.

Many of those contending for political office for the first time this year have been apprenticing with the powerful. The aforementioned White worked for U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, Ichiyama for Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland. Thirty-second District Republican candidate Aaron Johanson served as an aide to state Rep. Lynn Finnegan and as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona. Sitting near the seat of power can mightily stoke the ambition of the young: the 24- year-old Ichiyama, the 30-year-old Johanson, the 34-year-old White.

So too can religion. A couple of weeks ago at a Mililani candidates’night, I listened to a bright, articulate 25-year-old Republican named Shaun Kawakami state his case for why he should be elected to the House from the 38th District. He spoke affectingly about making the community better for his young children and those of his neighbors. Kawakami was formerly a youth pastor at Mililani Missionary Church. And many more Republican candidates this year share a religious calling.

And so it goes. Hawaii politics 2010 requires walkin’, wavin’, a healthy dose of ambition, and - in the case of some - a sense that you’re walkin’and wavin’for the Lord.

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