Kona sen­a­tor floats pos­si­ble run for gover­nor

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By NANCY COOK LAUER

With two years re­main­ing in his state Se­nate term, Josh Green is con­sid­er­ing run­ning for statewide of­fice in 2018.

Green, a Demo­crat rep­re­sent­ing Kona and Ka‘u, said Wed­nes­day he’s think­ing of run­ning for lieu­tenant gover­nor, or even gover­nor, depend­ing on how the cur­rent leg­isla­tive ses­sion plays out. A physi­cian, Green, 46, will have been in the Leg­is­la­ture 14 years when his cur­rent term ends.

“I see the peo­ple that are in dire straits and un­solved prob­lems that con­tinue to grow,” Green said. “We can’t go two, three, five years with­out so­lu­tions.”

Green lists the strug­gle for work­ing peo­ple to af­ford homes, con­tin­u­ing prob­lems with home­less­ness and Gov. David Ige’s fail­ure to meet his prom­ise of put­ting air con­di­tion­ing in 1,000 pub­lic schools by the end of last year as some of the prob­lems.

“I re­ally do want the ad­min­is­tra­tion

to suc­ceed be­cause I love what I’m do­ing,” Green added. “I’m still wait­ing to see if the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion is suc­cess­ful. I’m still root­ing for the ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

If he doesn’t take the leap in 2018, he’ll def­i­nitely do it in 2022 when the gover­nor is term-lim­ited and leaves of­fice, he said.

Chal­leng­ing a sit­ting gover­nor in your own party can be a risky move for a state law­maker, said po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Colin Moore, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and di­rec­tor of the Pub­lic Pol­icy Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Manoa.

Ige, a rel­a­tively un­known sen­a­tor when he chal­lenged his Demo­cratic pre­de­ces­sor Neil Aber­crom­bie who was seek­ing a sec­ond term, was suc­cess­ful. But that was be­cause of Aber­crom­bie’s lead­er­ship style, which an­gered many peo­ple, Moore said.

It’s dif­fer­ent with Ige. While some among the top lead­ers in the Leg­is­la­ture are frus­trated with Ige’s bud­get, that level of dis­sat­is­fac­tion hasn’t reached the pub­lic, Moore said. The most re­cent polls show about a 50-50 split be­tween those think­ing Ige’s do­ing a good job and those who don’t.

“There’s not this same angst with ev­ery­day vot­ers as there was with Aber­crom­bie,” Moore said. “In Hawaii po­lit­i­cal the­ory, an in­of­fen­sive can­di­date is a pretty good bet to keep the job.”

It won’t sur­prise Moore to see leg­is­la­tors push­ing Ige to test his vul­ner­a­bil­ity. If there’s a sense he’s weak, there could be chal­lengers.

“They’re go­ing to poke him a bit to see how strong he is,” Moore said. “I suspect that’s sort of how the game is be­ing played.”

Green, who last year had the largest cam­paign war chest of any state or lo­cal can­di­date, still had $507,372 in his cam­paign ac­count as of June 30, com­pared to Ige’s $318,146 and Lt. Gov Shan Tsut­sui’s $239,394.

Ige’s al­ready gear­ing up to col­lect more. He sched­uled a Jan. 29 fundraiser with sug­gested con­tri­bu­tions of $100, $2,000 or $4,000, ac­cord­ing to a re­port filed with the Cam­paign Spend­ing Com­mis­sion.

If he runs for lieu­tenant gover­nor, Green will join a crowded field vy­ing for the seat likely to be va­cated by Tsut­sui, who’s widely thought to be re­turn­ing to Maui to run for an open may­oral seat, Moore said.

Names al­ready pop­ping up as pos­si­bil­i­ties are Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kauai Mayor Bernard Car­valho, state Se­nate Ways and Means Chair­woman Jill Tokuda, among oth­ers.

Green said he won’t run for lieu­tenant gover­nor if Tsut­sui de­cides to stay. Tsut­sui couldn’t be reached for com­ment by press time Wed­nes­day.

Would-be can­di­dates get­ting their names out early might or might not have an ad­van­tage.

“We’ll know more as the ses­sion pro­gresses,” said Moore, who’s in­clined to think of moves to­ward the gu­ber­na­to­rial post as “blus­ter” at this point from can­di­dates more likely to run for the lieu­tenant gover­nor po­si­tion in­stead.


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