Manahan: Call Him Candidate 7

City Councilman Joey Manahan

City Councilman Joey Manahan. File photo

City Councilman Joey Manahan came late to the race for the 1st District Congressional seat being vacated by Colleen Hanabusa. He had not yet announced his intentions in February when the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now published their first Hawaii poll. In a more recent Civil Beat survey done since his announcement, he drew only 1 percent of those polled.

When I interviewed him two weeks ago, his car wore a battered, old, blue bumper sticker from an earlier campaign. But by the time the filing deadline passed last Tuesday, Manahan had taken his place as the seventh Democrat in pursuit of the open seat in District 1. And almost overnight, large banners carrying his name and handsome face could be seen at intersections across Oahu.

Manahan has traveled a long way to get to the starting line.

Born in the Philippines, his parents’ marriage ended in divorce. His mother packed her belongings and took son Joey to live in Southern California’s Menlo Park. There he attended Catholic schools, where he was educated by “nuns and Jesuits.”

His mother met and married Hawaiian-born Paul Cassiday, a former Campbell Estate trustee. Manahan entered University of Hawaii and found a job at the Legislature working for former state Rep. Dennis Arakaki. He would subsequently put in a session with Donna Mercado Kim’s office, as well.

“I really liked how government worked in Hawaii,” says Manahan. “When we left the Philippines, the country was under martial law. In Hawaii, you could help people in the community by funding projects that improved their lives.”

He also studied under two master politicians. “From Arakaki I learned to be humble,” says Manahan. “From Donna I learned that details matter.”

He tried to study under a third, then U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. “But I was a resident alien working with a green card, and you have to be citizen to work for a United States congressman.”

So Manahan took the oath of U.S. citizenship.

When Arakaki decided to give up his Kalihi House seat, Manahan ran and won it in 2006. Two years ago, he won the City Council seat being relinquished by Romy Cachola.

Manahan feels his travels and experience could make a contribution in Congress, particularly given President Barack Obama’s well-advertised “pivot to Asia.”

“I know Hawaii’s values, and I know the Philippines and the mainland United States as well,” says Manahan.

He cites the “remodernization” of Farrington High School and repair of broken elevators and restroom facilities at Kuhio Park Terrace among his legislative accomplishments.

In Congress he sees a challenge in working on the issue of global warming.

“Last November, two weeks after the typhoon that struck the Philippines, I went in search of a constituent,” says Manahan. “The damage was so severe; it was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was the worst storm experienced by the Philippines in recorded history.

“Storms of that nature are a reality we in Hawaii are susceptible to as well: 140 mph winds lasting three to four hours over an area larger than the Islands. We need to be better prepared for such emergencies.”

So Councilman Manahan now joins fellow Democrats Stanley Chang, Ikaika Anderson, Donna Kim, Will Espero, Mark Takai and Catherine Xian in the District 1 race. Republican Charles Djou awaits the winner of the Aug. 9 Democratic primary.

Correction: Twice in recent columns I’ve written that U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard won her first election to the state House as a Republican. Wrong. It was in 2002, and she ran and won as a Democrat. My apologies to Ms. Gabbard.