Local scene offers ‘who’s gonna do what’ intrigue
If this year's major political theme is the revival of Hawaii's established Democratic Party in contests first against Rep. Ed Case and then Gov. Linda Lingle, there are a lot of sub-themes to mull over.
The first to watch is, "What's up with Mufi?" While the first-term mayor might not be the most enigmatic of fellows, his political future is filled with choices. Hannemann has a broad political plate in front of him. He can run for re-election in 2008, but he has already run for Congress and makes no secret that he thinks he and Washington are a nice fit, so if there is a congressional vacancy in two years, he could jump.
In a politically perfect world Hannemann would want to beef up his status on the national stage at the same time he nails down his local re-election base.
And of course, no Democratic mayor of Honolulu worth his Honolulu Hale parking stall is very far away from jumping into a race for governor, so no one would be surprised to see Hannemann take an interest in statewide issues.
Moving across Punchbowl Street, the biggest and most arcane statewide political story is the question of who will run the 2007 Legislature.
While both the position of House speaker and Senate president are important, all the positions down the list -- from finance and judiciary to consumer protection and health -- provide the real meat in state laws.
Today both House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Robert Bunda appear to be in charge, but this is the time of the year for mischief-making.
Two years ago, for instance, a group of young and hoping-to-be upwardly mobile House Democrats started helping new candidates. The idea was to make nice with the new kids and get them to vote out the Old Guard.
The new kids came in, the Old Guard said, "Get over here, now," and the Young Turks like Reps. Brian Schatz and Scott Saiki found their mobility anything but upward.
The Senate, which breeds factions faster than the University of Hawaii breeds fruit flies, is more complicated. Bunda might have gotten a little too enthusiastic in his support for primary candidates, who then didn't win. The problem with backing losers is the Democrats who did win became guaranteed "Anyone but Bunda" votes in any Senate organization scheme.
But with so many competing factions and shifting alliances, Democrats will find it impossible to please all. And to further complicate matters, various combinations of the five Senate Republicans are also possible votes in a new organization plan.
So in this election year, if the big races become a bore, just start reading the news ticker crawling along the bottom of the screen for more political entertainment.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at email@example.com