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Inexplicably, Ige ignored prime opportunities to send strong leadership message

Inexplicably, Ige ignored prime opportunities to send strong leadership message

Honolulu Star Advertiser, January 28, 2018

By Richard Borreca

 

Governor David Ige delivers his State of the State address. Behind him is Senate President Ron Kouchi and House speaker Scott Saiki.

Who would have thought that David Ige, a mild-mannered Pearl City engineer, Democrat and governor, would be a man of mystery?

Not a mystery in terms of drama or suspense, but mystery, as in: “Gov. Ige, it is a mystery whatever it is that you are doing.”

Thanks to the “This is not a drill” Saturday morning missile mishap, the thinking about the August gubernatorial primary race has been completely rearranged. It put the Ige and his campaign on the defensive. If this were a normal race, the incumbent would be enjoying the high ground, defining the campaign issues and be the favorite to win both the primary and general election.

One botched mouse click by a state employee changed all that.

After the-missiles-are-coming mistake, Ige apologized, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency head Vern Miyagi apologized, Ige briefly answered questions and then promptly turned off whatever political sensibilities he possessed.

Although he attended a legislative hearing looking into the missile warning, Ige left, virtually in mid-question, saying he had another commitment. Yes, it is a mystery how Ige could think that any other commitment was more important than continuing to explain his administration’s bungled response, but leave he did.

Ige was then offered a chance to use all the power of his position and authority to set the record straight by including a serious discussion of the mistake in his annual State of the State message.

If there is a time for a careful, uninterrupted explanation, it would have been in the formal setting of a joint session of the Hawaii Legislature. This is the governor’s day — he owns it, he sets the agenda. But, again, there was nothing. Being the incumbent is always an advantage unless you act like your office is an imposition on your time.

It was as if Ige thought the best political response was to just be passive-aggressive about the whole thing.

Of course, there is more to the race for governor than David Ige.

While the governor fights to win back public confidence, Ige also faces a tough opponent in U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Known more as a savvy legislator than a flashy campaigner, Hanabusa this year is stressing her leadership ability and asking voters to compare it to Ige’s.

“At the highest level of state government today there is a deeply troubling lack of leadership and vision. There is a profound sense that we’re adrift, rudderless, with decisions made by a small circle of people with no indication of who’s really in charge,” Hanabusa says in her campaign ads.

Last week Hanabusa snagged the endorsement of fellow Hawaii congresswoman, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is one of the strongest progressive Democratic voices both in Hawaii and among Democrats across the country.

Gabbard endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president in 2016 and during the campaign, introduced him in rallies across the country. Hawaii overwhelmingly voted for Sanders. Although Hanabusa has been a strong backer of Hillary Clinton, Gabbard is a progressive leader who should be an influential addition to the Hanabusa camp.

For Ige to lose the progressive voters while not providing compelling reasons to trust his ability to run something as basic as civil defense leave him vulnerable to an early defeat this summer.