District 1 Candidate Could Be Youngest To Hold Office In State
If newcomer E.J. Delacruz of Makakilo wins the seat for City Council District 1 (Leeward Coast), he will make history as the youngest-ever elected political official in the state.
Delacruz, who has been campaigning for the seat since early February, celebrates his 19th birthday today (April 25).
The Kapolei High School graduate, who’s studying political science at Leeward Community College, has been interested in politics since junior high school and attributes his passion to his parents, who often discussed national political issues with him.
“I knew that I wanted to get involved somehow,” he said, adding that he also previously considered a career in law. “But I ended up picking politics because it was the only thing that I could think of that I could make a big enough difference. I would like to make a difference, that’s really what it comes down to.”
Delacruz hopes to address major area issues like rail.
“There are a lot of different alternatives you can have,” he said. “I don’t believe that rail is the solution. I don’t agree with the plan that they have,” he said. “I personally think that steel on steel is an outdated technology. They don’t plan on building it all in one build; they plan on building it in segments. That traffic is going to bottleneck along the lines of wherever they are building at the time. It’s going to be bottlenecking for 15, 20 years.
“It’s more of a traffic issue than it is a transit issue,” he added.
Delacruz said that for its staggering costs, rail will be underutilized, and he would instead consider alternatives such as rapid bus transit, toll booths and light synchronization and strategically placed exits to improve traffic flow.
Other issues in West Oahu that he would hope to address include a push for better waste management and increased renewable energy.
He has not yet aligned himself with a political party, but instead said he aims to do what is right for the people – focusing on policy rather than party affiliation.
“In essence, being in public office should be a relatively easy job, because all you’re doing is you’re doing what the people want,” he said.
He explained that his political interests growing up often were more oriented toward the national political sphere than the local one.
“It wasn’t until senior year (in high school) that I started to look around and see there are problems and that I need to get involved locally,” he said. “If I am going to start somewhere, I need to start locally and get involved in my neighborhood.”
Ultimately, Delacruz says that he would like to become president one day – and already has his entire career trajectory mapped out, starting with this seat in City Council.
Delacruz met his current campaign manager while working in sales at Office Depot. As Delacruz helped the customer, the two got to talking. And when Delacruz mentioned his political aspirations, the man offered to bring Delacruz on board to help with a campaign for a candidate from another district. On Delacruz’s first meeting with the group, he was elected deputy campaign manager. When things fell through with that candidate a while later, Delacruz decided to run himself.
The young politician has caught the attention of local and national media outlets for his campaign -including earning a spot on a Mainland NBC-affiliate blog for bizarre news. While he said that for the most part he has been getting positive feedback from the community, he has received a few negative comments regarding his youth.
After his story ran on other local news sources, a couple of online readers questioned his credentials and experience.
When he does receive comments such as this, he cites Henry Ford from Ford Motor Company:
“(Ford) was asked, ‘what do you know about building cars?’ And his response was, ‘I may not know everything that needs to be known about making cars, but I can surround myself with people who do know,'” Delacruz said, explaining that he won’t hesitate to seek consultation.
Delacruz is up against longtime members of the local political scene, including incumbent Tom Berg and state Rep. Kymberly Pine – who announced her candidacy earlier this month. Delacruz admits that he does not have much experience, but stressed instead that he is passionate about the community.
“My experience is that I care,” he said.
“If I can get that chance from the people, then I won’t let them down,” he said. “And I think it is time for a change … We need somebody to get in there and take a different approach, someone who can look at it from a different perspective and make changes.”