Hole in the plot

As voters enter the last week of mail-in voting, with the election to be called on or right after the 13th of August, evaluation of whom to vote for is much underway.

Even for this blogger, who looks at the wide spectrum of Hawaii politics, there is always one or two candidates that seem to pop up as “more interesting” than others. One of them is Patrick Branco, a candidate for Congress for Hawaii’s second district, in the House of Representatives.

Patrick Branco with then-Vice President Joe Biden at the State Dept. The flag in the back is the “Chiefs and Other Diplomatic Missions” flag. PC: Patrick Branco for Congress website, “media center” link, photos link at flickr.

He is running to replace Kai Kahele, who is leaving Congress and is vying for Hawaii Governor. Branco is currently a State House Representative from the Windward side of Oahu.

The reason why, for this blogger, Patrick Branco is a more interesting candidate is the fact that his background, before becoming the Windward representative, took him all over the world as a member of the distinguished U.S. State Department Diplomatic Corps. According to his bio, and his introductory presentation, he touts his time as a diplomat, serving in such challenging areas as Columbia and Pakistan, and Venezuela.

Areas, needless to say, which one could suspect that only the most seasoned diplomats are sent to due to the nature of that country’s relationship with the United States. Furthermore, those are countries which, for those working in worldwide organizations, are sent with added insurance for the sake of life and limb.

These are also assignments and experiences that lift regular diplomats to superstar status in some cases, being able to deal with any kind of diplomatic crisis since he would have experienced some of the highest levels of them.

And one would think that after all this, he would have his pick of the litter when it came to assignments at the State Department, being a Native Hawaiian serving the country in other far-flung places. Let alone, he would have job security in the diplomatic corps, which is a highly coveted job by many.

But after getting in, which for many requires passing one of the most challenging tests ever given by a governmental department, he decided to leave it, come back to Hawaii and of all things, become an elected official.

Hey, to each their own…people have their reasons as to why they leave a career. Military people do it all the time. Even CEOs who have reached the pinnacle of their career sometimes choose to go on another path.

A paragraph break, while it looks blank, also could contain a lot of details on decisions Branco made between working for the State Dept. and the State Legislature. It’s that gap that voters should wonder “what’s going on?”
PC: Screenshot from Patrick Branco for Congress website

But most times, if one asks “why did you leave?” you get an answer. The reasons are varied and in most cases the asker of the question understands. So a question that comes up is “why did Patrick Branco leave the State Department’s Diplomatic Corps?”

If you think that you will find the answer in Branco’s campaign website“about” section, what you will find instead is a hole in the plot between the times when he served as a diplomat to the time he was elected a Representative. When one reads it, you cannot help but wonder “okay, what happened with the State Dept. you said nothing about leaving and coming back”.

And while there might be an excellent reason for leaving and coming back, to serve in elected office, the fact that the candidate didn’t bother to put in one sentence to explain that should make a voter wonder “eh, what’s going on?”

It’s even more perplexing when one knows how hard it is to get into the Diplomatic Corps in the first place. For the uninitiated, the test linked earlier is the one the State Department issues across the nation, sometimes just once a year, which prospective individuals take. The test is not the hardest, but getting a high enough score to place is one of those “many will apply, few will be chosen” situations.

Some choose to take it multiple times, hoping that both practices make perfect and that their score is high enough to make it beyond the threshold. This blogger did it three times and never made it high enough to go into the next phase of selection. For Branco, to have both passed that level of test, serve at the level he did, and then to just leave, come back, live in his grandmother’s home where the craft room doubled as his bedroom, without an explanation as to why is interesting.

With the stakes being that the House Congressional 2 seat has been, as of late, the position where elected officials to that seat see it as a place to leapfrog into higher office (Tulsi Gabbard for President; Kai Kahele for Governor), one can surmise that whoever wins this seat they will most likely get the itch to go higher, sooner or later.

So isn’t it fair to ask, now, for the full story on why these candidates do what they did in their professional careers? And not leave the voter wondering why there is this weird plot hole when running for such a high-level seat in the State of Hawaii?

Just askin.