A Political Lull Before The Storm

Call it Hawaii’s post-primary political lull. In our one-party state, Aug. 11 decided so many contests that, in district after district, from Kau to Kapaa, you’d have to scratch around to find evidence that another election, of no little importance, will take place Nov.6.

On the day after the primary, losers and winners slapped small “Mahalo” stickers on their expensive, multicolored signs, left them up for a couple of days, then – if they had no general election opponent – took them down, folded them and stored them away for two or four years hence. Those things cost too much to be left to the whims of teenagers with spray paint. Though one Kaneohe resident partially painted over a Peter Carlisle sign: “Avocados 4 sale.”

And, for the past couple of weeks at least, commuters have not been distracted by regiments of political sign-wavers. Ah, bliss.

Even the spirited nonpartisan mayoral campaigns on Oahu and the Big Island quieted. Once the voters had decided Aug. 11 who made the finals, or who didn’t win outright, the survivors, Kirk Caldwell and Ben Cayetano, Billy Kenoi and Harry Kim, sagged and caught their breath.

The presidential campaigns? Forget it. Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and their respective political action committees have already spent $500 million, but none of it here in Hawaii. We’re a blue state, Obama’s place of birth, and neither Romney nor Obama is going to waste a dollar on us. They have a dozen “leaning” and “tossup” states to worry about.

The few post-primary signs of Hawaii political life have been slight and distant. A Hawaii delegate to Tampa’s Republican National Convention did make it to center stage, if ever so briefly. On the convention’s third day, former Marine and Hawaii GOP staffer Dylan Nonaka led the assembled delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Three Hawaii women made it front-and-center at the Democratic conclave in Charlotte: McKinley High School graduate, double amputee and Illinois congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, Obama’s sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, and Hawaii 2nd District congressional candidate Tulsi Gabbard.

Soetoro-Ng, of course, said nice things about her brother. Duckworth and Gabbard, both of whom served in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are heavy favorites to win their respective races, spoke of Obama’s support for veterans and their families. Gabbard, accepting the due of one of the freshest of the fresh faces, got a mere 90 seconds to say her piece.

More noteworthy, perhaps, were Hawaii’s absentees from the national political conventions. Neither U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono nor former Gov. Linda Lingle made trips east to attend their party’s conventions.

Hanabusa skipped Charlotte to come home to campaign for re-election. She carries an incumbent’s advantage into the general, but Djou lost the1st District seat to Hanabusa just two years ago. In the interim, he deployed to Afghanistan with his National Guard unit, and he comes to the rematch with a deservedly valuable mantle, for a Democrat or a Republican, of “veteran.” Djou and Hanabusa both had things to do at home.

So too do Hirono and Lingle. Their television advertisements are about all the visible campaigning available during this post-primary quiet. But they both opted for the Islands rather than the East Coast, forgoing an appearance at the podium or a glimpse of them on the floor of convention. Hand-shaking, candidate forums and speaking engagements in Hawaii took precedence.

We should all enjoy the lull as long as we can. It “cometh,” as the saying goes, “before the storm.”