BY MICHAEL HANSEN – We have had an exciting primary election season in Hawaii culminating on primary election day on Saturday, August 9, 2014, and the general election campaign promises even more political thrills through election day on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.
Especially noteworthy is that a major gubernatorial candidate in the general election has endorsed the Hawaii Shippers’ Council’s noncontiguous trades Jones Act reform proposal, an another said he was open to discussing specific reforms at a post primary gubernatorial forum.
A day before the primary election, Hurricane Iselle made landfall at 03:00 a.m. local time on the East side of the Big Island of Hawaii, the strongest tropical storm since reliable records began in 1950. Iselle caused so much damage in two Big Island precincts, that the primary election was cancelled and a special make-up election was held Friday, August 15, 2014. This delayed the vote in the big U.S. Senate primary race on the Democratic Party ticket between the incumbent U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and his challenger U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa. Senator Schatz won in a squeaker by 1,769 votes 49.3% to 48.6%.
The Democratic primary for Governor pitted the incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie with a ten to one money advantage against Hawaii State Senator David Ige’s insurgent campaign. When the dust cleared, Sen. Ige had upset Gov. Abercrombie in a stunning 67% to 32% defeat, and Abercrombie was the first incumbent to lose a gubernatorial primary in Hawaii. The well-known University of Virginia political analyst reported that Gov. Abercrombie’s loss to Sen. Ige is the largest primary loss of any sitting governor in U.S.. History.
A week after the special make-up election, the State’s major newspaper, Honolulu Star Advertiser, and leading television broadcaster, Hawaii News Now, released their Hawaii Poll covering the gubernatorial general election race showing the Republican candidate former Lt. Governor James “Duke” Aiona leading in a three-way race over the Democrat Sen. Ige 41% to 34% in a deep Blue state with overwhelming Democratic Party majorities in the State Senate and House of Representatives.
More drama in the gubernatorial race came on Thursday, August 21, 2014, when Sen. Ige suddenly withdrew from a planned forum to be held by the local think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii at luncheon the next day giving what seemed to be nominal reasons, and creating somewhat of a stir. The brave David who slew the Gov. Abercrombie Goliath by attending every possible forum he could find and answering every question the people asked, suddenly seemed to be a different kind of candidate.
The forum was held at Honolulu’s Pacific Club with a standing room only crowd, the three other general election candidates and engaged in a lively and serious discussion lead by the moderator William Keli’I Akina, PhD, Grassroot President and CEO .
The gubernatorial candidates attending the forum were the Duke Aiona, who is currently leading in the polls, former Democrat and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, running on the Hawaii Independent Party and running third in the polls, and the Libertarian Party of Hawaii candidate Jeff Davis, a small businessman operating a solar energy company and known as the “Solar Guy.”
Among other topics, the moderator Keli’i Akina asked the candidates a serious question whether or not they would support Jones Act reform?
Duke Aiona gave a full throated response n favor of reform: “Yes…. We’ve tried several times to basically abolish the Jones Act. I’m not sure that’s possible. But the exemption is very possible. In addition to Hawaii you have Guam, Alaska and I think Puerto Rico would be on board. I’d like to serve as a facilitator in bringing the four noncontiguous together…. The Jones Act impacts cost of living. I would be supportive of an exemption that (allows) the building of foreign vessels….”
Mufi Hannemann gave a carefully qualified response: “My principal reasons for supporting the Jones Act … is because of my strong belief in creating the American jobs it sustains and secondly in the interest of national security…. I’m willing to have the discussion with those who feel the Jones act should be amended in specific areas….”
It is clear now that the Jones Act has become a significant issue in the 2014 general election campaign in Hawaii and that leading candidates have embraced reform. This is moving our reform agenda forward.
Michael N Hansen is President of the Hawaii Shippers Council