Monday, October 21, 2002

Former KHON employees, from left, Jon Yoshimura, Barbara Marshall, Nestor Garcia, Bob Hogue and Glenn Wakai gathered last month at the KHON-TV Broadcast Center on Piikoi Street. The five are candidates in various political races around Oahu.

Reporters go from
limelight to
political spotlight

5 former television journalists are
headed for the Nov. 5 election

By Rod Antone

For years, former TV news reporter Nestor Garcia wondered what legislators at the state Capitol were talking about behind closed doors.

It turns out they were talking about him.

"I found it fascinating how much politicians concern themselves with what's being said or aired on the news. They spend a lot of time talking about reporters," said Garcia. "If I knew that was what they were talking, I would not have wasted my time waiting for them to come out."

Even so, the number of reporters trying to get on the other side of the closed door is increasing with five former television journalists making it past this year's primary and heading for the Nov. 5 general election. Three of them have held political office, while two others are trying politics for the first time.

Though their reasons are varied, there may be one common factor in their move to politics, said one Hawaii political analyst.

"I think at some point they realize they're just as smart or smarter than the politicians they're interviewing," said Dan Boylan, professor of history at University of Hawaii-West Oahu and a MidWeek columnist. "Remember, Linda Lingle ran a newspaper before she ran for office."

All five candidates used to work at KHON Fox 2, the station that has dominated Hawaii TV news ratings for 20 years.

"I was very proud to be associated with this group of people," said former KHON reporter and Honolulu City Councilman Jon Yoshimura. "The common element is that we all care about our community, and for many years we exercised that desire by working as journalists. And many of us decided to take a more active role in making our communities a better place, and that's why we got into politics.

"Not only do I consider them to be excellent public servants, but great friends."

This year's ex-KHON political class includes:

>> Garcia, 45, who after reporting on the Legislature for Channel 2 for 10 years has served the last eight years as a state representative. Garcia is running for a Honolulu City Council seat for the Kunia-Mililani area.

>> Yoshimura, 43, is another former reporter who started out as a freelance cameraman on Maui. Since 1994, Yoshimura has served as a Honolulu city councilman and stepped down earlier this year after a three-year run as Council chairman. Yoshimura is running for the state Senate seat representing Waikiki to downtown.

>> Bob Hogue, 49, is a former sports anchor who for the past two years has been a state senator representing Kailua-Kaneohe. He is running for re-election.

>> Barbara Marshall, 58, is a former executive producer and longtime investigative reporter who for years was also the face and voice of KHON's consumer-advocacy feature "Action Line." Marshall is running for the City Council seat representing the Heeia-Waimanalo district.

>> Glenn Wakai, 35, covered the state and federal court beat for KHON and later for KHNL TV. Wakai is running for the state House seat for District 32, representing Moanalua Valley.

Two other former TV journalists did not make it to the general election: Jerry Drelling of KGMB, who lost to Yoshimura in the Democratic primary; and Dalton Tanonaka, formerly of CNN Asia, KITV and before that KHON, who lost in the GOP lieutenant governor race to James "Duke" Aiona.

Kent Baker, former KHON news director and general manager, said it is not surprising that his ex-employees have made it thus far.

"They were all bright people," said Baker from his Iowa home where he owns and operates his own newspaper, the Moville Record.

"They were reporters who understood Hawaii ... and if you understand the community, you understand what the problems are."

Even so, some of them are still learning about the challenges of political campaigning.

"It's a lot of hard work. You need a lot of patience and a lot of sunscreen," said Wakai after spending a day going house to house in his district. "I'm saying the same thing over and over again at each doorstep 3,500 different times.

"It's hard to stay fresh but that's what it takes, so that's what I'm doing."

Marshall said: "What I tell people is after 30 years of criticizing government, I felt like it was time to put up or shut up. You wouldn't be in news if you weren't interested in your community."

"I still can't believe I'm doing this," she admits.

While Wakai and Marshall are both used to the stress of last-minute deadlines and speaking before large audiences, their former co-workers who have already been in office said they should prepare themselves for a different kind of pressure if they are elected -- the kind that does not go away after the evening news is done.

"I almost developed an ulcer over the physician-assisted suicide vote," said Hogue. "Sometimes it takes a few weeks to get that kind of stress out of your system."

Yoshimura said, "Barbara Marshall did come and talk to me, and I told her all the reasons why she would be a great Council member, but then I told her some of the downsides.

"There's financial sacrifices, a significant commitment in time and making tough decisions. ... It's not easy."

Garcia added: "As a newscaster you're almost seen as a celebrity. But the spotlight on politicians is a bit harsher and less forgiving.

"I think they should have talked to me first. I would have told them how tough it is."

Former KHON reporters in the race

Five former TV journalists are running for office in the Nov. 5 general election. Following is a list of their races and opponents.

State Senate District 12 (Waikiki-Downtown)

>> Gordon M. Trimble (R)
>> Jon Yoshimura (D)

State Senate District 24 (Kaneohe-Kailua)

>> Pono Chong (D)
>> Bob Hogue (R)

State House District 31 (Moanalua Valley)

>> Brad M. Sakamoto (R)
>> Glenn Wakai (D)

City Council District 3 (Heeia-Waimanalo)

>> Stan Koki
>> Barbara Marshall

City Council District 9 (Kunia-Mililani)

>> Nestor Garcia
>> Michael Nakamura

Editor's note: Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Antone is also a former KHON reporter, though he has no desire to run for political office.

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