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HOOSER: Sometimes leading means stepping back

The primary election results for the Kaua‘i prosecutor’s race show without a doubt who the winner of the general election will be. With the most-recent count showing Rebecca “Becky” Like at 8,184 votes and Shaylene Iseri at 3,645 votes, the ultimate outcome is clear.

Barring an act of God, the odds of Iseri coming from behind and making up the difference necessary to win during the next six weeks prior to Feb. 26 are in a word “impossible.”

Competition is a good thing, and while I admire the chutzpah our former prosecutor has exhibited in throwing her hat in the ring to run, the point has been made, the card has been played, and it’s game-over.

Losing an election is hard and it’s personal. Been there, done that.

At some point every politician needs to recognize when their time has come and gone, and that there are other ways to serve your community. I’ve come to realize the importance of making space for others, and that sometimes leading means stepping back.

I’m hopeful that during the upcoming 2022 Kaua‘i County Council election cycle the old dogs of council’s past agree and hold back on their urge to run again as well.

With Vice Chair Mason Chock and Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro “terming out” and not able to run for re-election in 2022, space is in fact being made now to elect at least two new leaders from within our community.

This should be our collective goal. While it is likely that one or more former councilmembers will attempt to capitalize on their past name recognition and run for election in 2022, our community should and must seek out and encourage new energy and fresh voices to fill at least these two slots.

In the 2006 election, residents voted overwhelmingly, 13,266 to 6,139, to establish a four-term limit for the council. In 2018, a councilmember scheduled to be termed out introduced a resolution to eliminate those term limits. Fortunately, that effort failed.

“Making space for new leadership” is a fundamental principle behind term limits, and we should support and honor that principle.

Of course, there are times when the old guard must in fact step up and reenter the fray. Sometimes others fail to put their names forward, or those that do do not represent the balance of perspectives or experience needed.

However, a cursory review of the five council incumbents that remain after the departure of Chock and Kaneshiro shows there’s a wide variety of perspectives, institutional memory and government experience.

What’s obviously most lacking on the Kaua‘i County Council today is gender balance.

Yes, the person most qualified should be the one elected, but there’s certainly no shortage of qualified women in our community. Increasing that perspective by adding at least two additional women would enrich the discussion and ultimately improve the decision-making.

To be clear, there are seven seats up for election on the council. Imagine a council that had six women and only one man. Go ahead, give it a try!

Three Kaua’i seats are open in the state House of Representatives, and one in the Senate. All should be challenged.

Competition is a good thing. Incumbency too often breeds complacency, and the challenges facing our community deserve assertive, bold, creative leadership. Complacency at this particular point in time is the last thing we need.


Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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