I just finished interviewing the three candidates for Governor in Hawaii (in the order I met them).

Duke Aiona Interview 

Neil Abercrombie Interview

Mufi Hannemann Interview

First off, everything here is solely my opinion and not the opinion of any of my family members (I’m pretty sure a couple of these things are going to get me a very upset phone call). So no yelling at my mom or sister (you can yell at my dad – he’ll just give it back to you, with more swear words).

I live in Colorado. I grew up in Hawaii but went to college in Colorado and have lived on the mainland since then, coming back on vacation about every other year. So the below comes from someone who has a very shallow view of the state from outside – which does have its advantages as well as disadvantages.

I think Hawaii faces two major issues – fixing the schools (they suck) and creating a significant number of high paying jobs (which requires good schools). Renewable energy, locally grown food, etc. – those are good things but not key to the state’s future (sorry, mom). So based on that…

I went in to this assuming I would love Neil, would find Mufi to be a union/Democratic machine puppet, and would find Duke to be a nice guy but not up to the job of governor. Boy was I wrong. So here’s my take on the candidates.

Duke Aiona – Incredibly smart, focused on the key issues, and displayed by far the greatest knowledge on those issues. He also would be the most effective on fixing K-12, if he could get the necessary legislation through. Duke is a superb & impressive candidate.

Neil Abercrombie – Neil is focused on leadership and character and from that we will… Sorry, but I think it takes more than that. And on education, I’m sorry, but leaving teachers alone with no measurement or accountability won’t improve things – it doesn’t for any profession. On any given question I’m probably going to agree with Neil most of the time, but I think Neil needs to focus on what and how to sell himself.

Mufi Hannemann – Mufi is a politician. If you cut him, he bleeds politics, not blood. On each issue he is looking to find the compromise that is acceptable to the most people. In other words, he’s very much like Bill Clinton (without the intern issues). Now we all like someone who fights for specific results – when we agree with them. But the majority of politics is crafting the best compromise and there is great value in that.

So who to vote for? All three of them are smart, knowledgeable, focused people. They are all quality candidates. Mufi is a known quantity who will almost certainly do a really good job while Neil is a wild card. On that decision you need to weigh out what you think Neil will do and how effective he will be. If I was voting I would want to see Neil talking a lot more specifics about what and how before voting for him.

In addition, an all Democratic system has served Hawaii badly. Single party government at any level in any state leads to corruption and an inability to address the big problems. Hawaii needs to have a two party government. So my recommendation is either:

1.Elect a majority of Republicans to the legislature and Mufi or Neil to the Governorship.
2.Elect the usual suspects to the legislature and Duke to the Governorship.
Who’s Going to Win?
I think the Democratic primary will be a referendum on the job Mufi is doing as mayor. If people think he’s done a good job running Honolulu, he’s going to win. If they think he’s done a poor job of it, Neil wins. There’s a lot of other issues but that’s the biggie.
I think the general will be based on how well people remember having a one party state. If they recall how inefficient and ineffective it was, then Duke has a strong change. If they don’t remember, then it’s a Democratic win.

Civil Unions

I want to end with a note on Civil Unions. The arguments against Civil Unions, that they are unnatural, that God does not approve, that they are yucky – all of those arguments were used against interracial marriages. And interracial marriages were illegal in many states into the ’60s. To have civil unions, which fall far short of gay marriage, opposed in a state with such a high percentage of interracial marriage, is the height of hypocrisy. Abercrombie is on the right side of history on this issue while Lingle, Aiona, & Hannemann are on the side of bigotry (equivocation is still bigotry).

David Thielen is founder & CTO at Windward Studios.

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