His Message for the UH Hilo Community
By Brian Wild, News Writer
Not long ago, the Political Science Club at UH Hilo met in UCB 330 for their usual Wednesday afternoon meeting, soon joined by special guest David Ige, a Democratic State Senator from the Pearl City and ‘Aiea area of O‘ahu. The reason? Senator Ige is a candidate for Governor. For those of you asking, “David who?”, here’s a quick summary of what this man is doing: earlier this summer, Hawai’i State Senator David Ige (D – 16th District) announced his bid to become the Aloha State’s next chief executive. In doing so, Ige has become the first real face of opposition to incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie. As both men are Democrats, they will compete in the Democratic primary next summer and the victor of that race will then go on to the general election next November. Since there is currently no “strong” Republican candidate in the race, many analysts conclude that whoever wins the Democratic nomination (at this point either Abercrombie or Ige) is currently expected to win the general election.
During his time in Hilo, members of the Political Science Club were given the rare opportunity to sit down with a real-life politician, and allowed the chance to ask the Senator many different questions on a broad range of issues. Aimehio Iyeke, President of the UH Hilo Political Science Club, said she felt open to some of his specific ideas. “I like his views on education, specifically his thought that major decisions should be made by school administration, and not the ‘higher ups’ because not all schools face the same challenges or experience the same successes.”
Not all of the club members’ opinions on Senator Ige were entirely positive, however. Vice President Conan Cordero-Vierra said he did not approve of Ige’s support for GMOs, stating, “I’m sorry, but that is not acceptable.”
Despite the disagreement over certain policies, Cordero-Vierra still believed that “The overall experience was very good. The candidate (Ige) was insightful and gave thoughtful responses whenever possible. I enjoyed discussion and felt that he was a pretty representative figure in terms of current values of his constituency.”
The club’s Secretary, Krista Aoki, expressed her hope that Ige’s candidacy will resonate with students at UH Hilo, saying, “It’s refreshing to see an alternative candidate for Governor. I’m excited to follow Senator Ige’s development in this campaign. The Governor is elected to make a lot of important decisions and appointments, so it’s imperative for the community to pay close attention to the candidates.”
While this meeting occurred largely under the radar, it was a significant event for UH Hilo’s Political Science Club. A contributing member of the club myself, I also had the opportunity to ask Senator Ige a few questions regarding his candidacy and what he stands for. The primary question I had concerned whether his ability to point to any specific professional or personal experience that made him qualified to be the next Governor of Hawai’i. Ige responded by saying that throughout his nearly three decades serving in the Hawai’i State Legislature, he has crafted various policies, specifically regarding budget and education reform. Ige went on to describe himself as a champion of prioritizing local interests, stating, “We [himself and his colleagues] were inclusive, and engaged with community leaders…”
An electrical engineer by training, Ige contended that his ability as a man of science to think critically and look objectively at the issues would be beneficial to governing a state. As I continued my questioning of his record, he said that as a veteran lawmaker, “I had a history of bringing people together… listening to them independently.” An issue of particular concern for students of all ages, Senator Ige vowed to “Work with the Board of Education,” although he made it a point to criticize Hawai’i’s notoriously bureaucratic system. “They’ve been doing too many things from the top down… I really think it starts with the budget.” He hypothesized that if local schools were given more independence over financial issues, it would “Solve lots of challenges schools currently face due to lack of funding… they [the schools] feel like they are drowning and underwater.” Towards the end of our conversation, the clearest message he gave to us was this: “What are the real priorities?… How much progress are we really making?” Before adding point-blank that, “My record speaks for itself.”
To be sure, David Ige’s candidacy is presumably an uphill battle. Hawai’i has historically favored incumbents in their quests for re-election. Only one of Hawai’i’s seven governors has been denied a second term, and only two Congress members from Hawai’i have ever lost a primary or a general election of their own. Nonetheless, Ige has been traveling throughout the state to spread awareness for his campaign and discuss the issues with potential voters. Come this time next year, Hawai’i will have made its voices heard. Time will only tell if David Ige will have the chance to see his name on the ballot next November or not.
Author’s Personal Reflection: I should clarify to my readers that this article is not meant in any way to be an endorsement of Senator Ige’s campaign or any other campaign, as I don’t believe in endorsing or rebutting any political candidate directly through my work at Ke Kalahea. However, I do commend Senator Ige for taking the time to meet with us. I think it is important for young people – especially college students – to remember that while some of our elders may look down on us as children, we are still equally capable of exercising our rights as citizens in our communities. (And a message to all of Hawai‘i’s leaders: Please feel free to communicate with the UH Hilo student body! We would love to have the chance to speak with you; besides, the youth vote could still be up for grabs!)
The underlying opinions in this article are those of UH Hilo’s very own political junkie, Brian Wild, and do not necessarily reflect those of Ke Kalahea’s or the University.