Experience matters?

Today, saying you’re “not the incumbent” is actually an asset to the first time candidate for political office in Hawaii, according to how the primary election panned out.
PC: “MORE JOBS! NOT THE INCUMBENT” by bjmccray is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You’d think that political “experience” was a hard and fast rule for anyone seeking to occupy a political office. That being said, no matter how you slice or dice, experience always becomes the trump card when persuading people – whether it’s a hiring committee or regular voters – to choose one person over another.

For years Hawai‘i voters seemed to angle toward experience as the main factor in whom they voted for. Even if it was a politician jumping from, say, the legislature to a county council, they would always be seen as a strong candidate just because of the perception that they knew what to do when they got into office.

And for a long time that is exactly how the rules played out for the up and coming politician. And those candidates could bank on getting into office and staying in office based on just that.

Then COVID -19 came along.

What the virus has shown to so many constituents is that while the “experienced” politician can talk a good game when it comes to managing the state in good times, the ability for them to convert into war-time crisis leaders does not exist. We are seeing now that the leaders we elected, for one thing, are falling apart when the situation has dramatically changed.

So, if this is what “experience” gets you at this time, I am sure for many voters, there is much to be desired.

In come the newbies.

On the ballot this general election session, there is a slate of “new face” candidates that, for many, this is the first time they have ever run for office. From James Aki and Augie Tulba for City Council to Rick Blangiardi, Keith Amemiya, Mitch Roth, and Ikaika Marzo for the office of the county mayor in Honolulu and Hawai‘i County, there are a few new names to chose from this cycle.

The ability to change starts with participating in the process
PC: “Vote” by Vaguely Artistic is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

And unlike in the past where the new guy was told “you’ll lose this one to (named incumbent or lifelong pol), but you will get your name out for success later on”, there is a real possibility that a healthy group of these candidates will get in on their first time campaigning.

One of the keys to these new candidates’ success is the fact that many voters, even before COVID, were getting a little tired of the antics the “experienced” politicians were performing. From the key issues of economic development to ecological protection, there has been more than once I have heard from people that “they are not listening to me” on these matters.

With the addition of the COVID saga, where, in no fault of their own, thousands of people have been thrown out of work and livelihoods put on hold over questionable dictums from these “experienced” politicians, and one can see why the voter of Hawai‘i may be out there looking for something, and someone new.

Now, how much “new” does the voter want will very much depend on how much change they are desiring. We will see what the judgment is when all of us go over the numbers on Wednesday, November 4, 2020, after the last print out.