The New Year

Ka Wai Ola

Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

There is much to makaʻala about in the coming new year. 2020 will feature several key election races and projects that are important to Native Hawaiians. Not only are we electing a President and the State of Hawaiʻi Legislators but there are four OHA Trustee seats up for election.

Given all that has transpired in 2019 for Native Hawaiians it is more important than ever, not only to register to vote, but also to know who you are voting for. With the opening of the 2020 Legislative session upon us, we should all be mindful of how our Legislators are voting on Native Hawaiian bills. I know we all work and have busy lives, but if you have the time on January 15th you should make your way down to the square building, find your representative and senator’s offices, stop by and introduce yourself. Let them know what issues are important to you. I promise, they will listen. A constituent that shows up at their office is someone who will vote and will influence others to do the same. If you have never gone to a candidate’s fundraiser, I highly suggest you start. You can go to to find out when and where they will be. Most candidates are also not shy about advertising when and where their next event will be on social media. Show up, introduce yourself, and let them know what is important to you.

When you find a candidate you feel you can support, then support them. Donate to their campaign, and I am not just talking about money, although that is very important. Shirts, signs, pamphlets and websites all cost money; but volunteer, show up to help walk the neighborhood, or host a coffee talk at your hale so you can introduce the candidate to your friends and family. All the other manpower needs will come much later after the summer, like sign waiving and phone banking.

I am sure you are wondering why I would be talking about election time in January, nine months away from the primary election and 11 months away from the general election. The simple reason is that it takes time to listen, research and feel comfortable with someone you want to support. So, in the months ahead, take that time, be mindful and slowly develop your relationship with these people. When someone gives you their campaign speech, ask probing questions; ask them to clarify what they mean. Politicians like to use buzz words like transparency, change, housing and education, just as a few examples. What do they mean by that, how will they achieve this and who will they work with? If they truly have a plan, they will be able to answer these questions; if not, you will know it very quickly.

The other thing that is important to observe is who else is supporting this person. Remember, it takes a team to pass laws or get things passed at the OHA boardroom table. At the fundraisers you attended were any other politicians there? Were any influential people from the community there? Is this person able to convince others to support them, which would translate to support for bills at the legislature and action items at the boardroom table, or is it just family and friends? New blood can be a good thing and fresh ideas and eyes are definitely a good thing, and if you can find a candidate with the political savvy to be able to rally support from their colleagues, then that is who you want to support.