Is he this and/or that?

Kai Kahele 117th U.S Congress.jpg
PHwSF subject for today’s post – Mr. Kai Kahele
PC: This United States Congress image is in the public domain

Even before his formal announcement that he was leaving Congress and running for Hawaiʻi Governor, Kai Kahele has already been examined by many about his positions on several key items. 

He’s also been attacked about his job performance in Congress and that in some political circles, he is just not liked. But that is another issue, for another time. 

Two areas of interest: tourism and whether he is a true progressive, have been written by fellow bloggers over the past couple of weeks. For this piece, we’ll look at what they say he “may very well be” and then a Politics Hawaii analysis (noted as “PHwSF take) of whether the point of view is valid, or not. 

We will start with tourism. 

On the blog site “Beat of Hawaii”, which posts information, generally, about tourism and sometimes dabbles into the political realm, a post from them examined whether Mr. Kahele would be the first governor with “tourism experience”. 

Entitled “Will This Hawaiian Airlines Pilot Be A Good Governor For Hawaii Visitors?”, Beat of Hawaiʻi contends, 

“Would this Hawaiian Airlines pilot make a good Hawaii governor? Honestly, we don’t know. But it certainly begs the question of what it might mean for Hawaii concerning the visitor industry. Hawaii is at a critical point in reevaluating tourism and how it’ll work going forward.”

The piece continues with a rundown of recent news on Mr. Kahele – his controversies and his background. But the implication is that because he works for one of the pedestals of Hawaiʻi tourism – Hawaiian Airlines – that somehow he might have some insight on tourism that the other candidates – Lieutenant Governor Josh Green and Mrs. Vicky Cayetano – don’t have. 

PHwSF take When I was growing up, my father, as you can read here was heavily into aviation and had very specific things to say about pilots who thought they knew more about an airplane than he did. 

He’d say “yeah, pilots, since they can fly a plane, they think they know all about a plane”, in other words, he thought that just because one watches Alton Brown on the Food Network, making a dish, that somehow the viewer can become a top-notch chef. In both circumstances, the expertise of knowing a much larger subject – tourism or cooking – is not imparted to you just because you know one thing about it. 

As far as this political pundit is concerned, Mr. Kahele has not shown much, if at all, any expertise on tourism to the scale of others in the field. Two names, Rick Egged and Mufi Hannemann, who are as well known in the political realm as Mr. Kahele is, have more expertise in tourism from a real-world perspective. 

Now, this does not mean that he can’t get schooled up on the issue, gosh knows politicians have to learn about a new issue all the time to be able to lead. Whether he is doing that to the level of asking whether he would be Hawaiʻi’s first “tourism governor”, the jury is still out. 

In the area of whether Mr. Kahele is a “true progressive”, take a read of Gary Hooser’s blog post entitled “Dancing with the devil – money, and politics in Hawaiʻi”. Hooser says he hopes Mr. Kahele runs for governor, and that we should be so lucky to have Mr. Kahele choose to serve at this level. Furthermore, Hooser says, 

“I can say without reservation that Kahele is someone we can count on, someone who shares our collective values, and someone who will go to the wall to protect the ʻāina and support working men and women across all Hawaiʻi.” 

For a little background, Mr. Hooser is presently the executive director for the Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative (PHI), and volunteer board president of the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.). 

Hooser says, further, that Mr. Kahele won’t dance with big money and big development interests in Hawaiʻi, in comparison to his competitors – Green and Cayetano. He further contends that it’s those interests that have been feeding the media detrimental stories about Kahele, trying to knock him out before he announced on Saturday, May 7th that indeed, he intends to run. The crosswalk to all of this in the political realm is that progressives eschew the influence of big money in their desire to be elected. Of course, the counter to this is that candidates from “the establishment” are more subject to the whims of these big-money, special interests. 

Thomas Gill (politician) - Wikipedia
Another “rebel” upstart candidate for Hawaii’s governor was Thomas Gill, who ran against Jack Burns in 1970 for the Democratic Party Nomination. Will the same befall Kahele as did Gill? (spoiler alert, Burns – the establishment candidate, won over the progressive Gill.
PC: This United States Congress image is in the public domain.

PHwSF take I have seen this script before – eyes get on the upstart candidate that seems to check off boxes with certain political philosophies. Those eyes conclude that this is going to be “their horse” in the race and will promote the candidate as the viable alternative we should all support, for the protection of the ʻāina, keiki, etc. 

But the script also shows candidates that have won office, based on these messages, then flipping around and becoming establishment stalwarts. I have also seen the script show that those interests, when the rebel candidate (which I am tagging Kahele as) gets the nomination, pivots quickly to the opposition and tries to make a deal with them, as they know their interests will not be helped by said rebel. 

But think about this – if Kahele wins (not a foregone conclusion), and he tells the “monied interests” to take a hike, are they going to pivot to the Republican candidate? Say that nominee is none other than B.J. Penn (yes, highly unlikely but not out of the realm of possibility). 

My read is that they will fight harder to keep Kahele out rather than figure out a plan B with whomever the Republican nominee is. That will translate into a race that will be a lot sharper with comments, contentious in its messaging, and unyielding in mudslinging by both sides to get a leg up. In discussions with other pols, this blogger has said the governors’ race might change from a “coronation of Josh Green” to an alleyway fight between two Southies in downtown Boston. 

And then the follow-up question to that is how will that fight affect down-ticket races. Time will tell.