Hawai‘i leaders move on, generationally

While the United States, as a whole, waits for the generational shift in the White House from Silent and Boomer generations to younger ones like X and Millennials, the move to a younger generation of leaders in Hawai‘i has already occurred. 

An examination of the individuals holding positions in the “state leadership” group, including the four mayors, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and all four members of Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation, has revealed that a majority of state government leaders are younger than those belonging to the Boomer generation. Most of these leaders come from the early to mid-X Generation.

Before diving into this, a quick review of the age breakdown by generation (as noted previously in Politics Hawaii)

  • Silent Generation – 1928 – 1945
  • Baby Boomer – 1946 – 1964
  • X-generation – 1965 – 1980
  • Millennial – 1981-1996
  • Generation Z – 1997 – 2013
  • Generation Alpha – 2010-ish – 2025

This shift came about recently, starting with the 2018 election when Kaua‘i mayor Derek Kawakami (born in 1977, making him mid-X) was elected Mayor. At the time, other Mayors, and one-half of the State Executive, were still Boomers, with one being in the Silent Generation. 

Those leaders at the time were Governor David Ige (1957, mid-Boomer) and Josh Green (1970, mid-X) two mayors were also Boomers – Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu (1952, mid-Boomer); Michael Victorino of Maui County (1952, mid-Boomer); and Harry Kim of Hawai‘i County the sole member of the Silent generation (1939, late Silent). 

In the Congressional delegation, as of 2018, there was a split between Ed Case (1952, mid-Boomer) and Tulsi Gabbard (1981, early Millennial) in the House. In the Senate, Brian Schatz (1972, mid-X-Generation) was paired with Mazie Hirono (1947, early Boomer). 

So, if looking at percentages, there are 10 leaders (4 mayors, 2 State exec, 4 congressional), of which 10% were Silent, 50% were Boomer, 30% X-Generation, and 10% were Millenial. 

From top: Governor’s:
George Ariyoshi
John Waihee
Neil Abercrombie
David Ige
Josh Green
Each saw a change in generations on who leads Hawaii

With the 2022 election, the generational ratio of leaders in Hawai‘i changed, dropping the sole millennial and putting the majority of power in the hands of the X-Generation. 

How that breaks down, using the same 10 positions, looks like this. 

  • Governor – Josh Green – mid-X generation
  • Lt. Governor – Sylvia Luke (1967, early X-generation)
  • Kaua‘i Mayor Kawakami – mid X-generation
  • O‘ahu Mayor Blangiardi – (1946, very early Boomer)
  • Maui Mayor Bissen – (1962, very late Boomer)
  • Hawai‘i Mayor Roth – (1964, early X-generation) 
  • Senator Schatz – mid X generation
  • Senator Hirono – early Boomer
  • Representative Case – mid-Boomer 
  • Representative Tokuda – (1976, mid-X-generation)

With that, 40% are Boomer and, in a “flip + 10%” move, Generation X now occupies 60% of Hawai‘i’s governmental leadership. 

With the shift from Boomer to X in the Governor’s office, going back for reference, Boomers occupied Washington Place from 1986 to 2010, when Neil Abercrombie (1938, Silent) took over for four years, when Ige, a Boomer, took it back over for 8 more years, until Josh Green became governor last year, effectuating a generational change in state leadership. 

This indicates that Boomers have dominated the Governor’s office for 16 years, while the Silent Generation held it for four years. This pattern is akin to the Presidency, which has mostly been occupied by Boomers but is currently held by a Silent whose tenure might be as brief as, if not slightly longer than, the Silent’s term as Governor.

For the offices of the Mayor around the state, Boomers, and X-Generation hold a 50/50 split. Considering that at least one of the Boomer mayors (Blangiardi) has declared his re-election campaign, and he wins, Boomers might hold power at that level, in a significant way, for at least 4, and maybe as long as 8 years, if Bissen runs again in 2026. 

Over the next decade, as Baby Boomers leave and X-Gen/early Millennials move up into leadership roles, voters can choose younger candidates for the top levels of the Hawai’i state government for a decade or more. This shift has already occurred at Washington Place, even though it still needs to happen in the White House. 

Photo Credits, all photos 
Ariyoshi: "Former Gov. Ariyoshi (6341239579) (cropped)" by Hawaii County is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Waihe‘e: "File:John Waihee at the King Kamehameha Parade 2016.jpg" by Daniel Ramirez is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Abercrombie: "Neil Abercrombie (cropped)" by Governor Neil Abercrombie is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Ige: "File:Governor David Ige (cropped 2).jpg" by Dallas Nagata White is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Green: "Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii Josh Green (cropped 2)" by ChelseaLockridge is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.