Monday, August 16, 1999

Bronster has no plans
to enter politics

By Mike Yuen


A few days after the state Senate refused to confirm Margery Bronster to a second term as attorney general, she received a telephone call from Republican Orson Swindle.

"I called to commiserate with her about the absurd dilemma she was put in and how much the people of Hawaii and I respect her," Swindle says, recalling the conversation when public outrage over her ouster was at its highest. "I said in jest she had no alternative now but to declare herself a Republican and run for governor."

Swindle believes Bronster, whom he praised for "her integrity and courage," would be "a great candidate for something," even if she were to seek office as a Democrat, her true party colors.

"We need a change in political leadership," says Swindle, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress and is now in Washington, D.C., as a federal trade commissioner.

Others -- people whom Bronster describes as men and women on the street -- are still urging her to run for public office. And the office many frequently mention is governor, which won't be contested until 2002.

'I don't know where my
future is going to lead. I have never
run for political office.'

Margery Bronster



Bronster still hasn't decided what she'll do next.

"I don't know where my future is going to lead," she says. "I have never run for political office. It is certainly not something I would take on lightly, but it is not something I'm currently planning."

The path to politics, veteran political observers say, would be mine-filled for Bronster. Now, she's seen as a martyr, perceived to have been undone by the Bishop Estate, which somehow lashed back at her through the Senate for heading the state's investigation into the trust, long a dominating influence in the isles. As a candidate, however, she would be viewed much more critically.

"The idea that this popular hero can magically lead a (political) campaign is giantly problematic," says Ira Rohter, University of Hawaii associate professor of political science, who also co-chairs the Green Party.

The outpouring of support for Bronster, Rohter believes, is more an expression of disgust with Hawaii's current political leadership and less a desire to transform Bronster into a political leader.

Bronster concurs: "It's not necessarily about me. People care deeply about what elected officials are up to. That is what is going to carry through -- this theme of accountability and openness. Honesty and integrity are all things that we are going to see repeated in the coming (election) year. If I had some part in that, I'm grateful. But it doesn't have to be about me."

State Democratic Party Chairman Walter Heen adds that Bronster as a candidate could see her image tarnished by changes in public opinion or by a changing political landscape.

"A lot of times an individual's notoriety or popularity resulting from any given situation does not translate into garnering enough votes to be elected," Heen said. "So it would be difficult to gauge whether or not she's electable."

As a candidate, Bronster also would have to put together an organization and raise money. She would have to take positions on controversial issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, that risk alienating voters.

And if she were to run for governor, she would be a neophyte in a field of seasoned politicians, says veteran pollster Don Clegg.

While the public may have rushed to embrace Bronster as a possible candidate for office, the state Democratic and Republican parties haven't. Heen says he didn't make any recruiting overtures. Nor did Donna Alcantara, who was isle GOP chairwoman when the Senate rejected Bronster.

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