In politics, money talks -- and votes
Hawaii is suffering another drought, but this one is not connected to global warming.
Big Island and Maui farmers may be hoping for rain, but voters are hoping for some more candidates.
Today Hawaii appears headed into a second election year without a major candidate to oppose a top local politician.
In 2006, Democrats tried and tried, but could not come up with a major candidate to oppose Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. Although former state senator and Honolulu City Councilman Randy Iwase gave it a good try, it was never a fair fight.
The same goes for GOP Rep. Cynthia Thielen's scrappy general election campaign against Sen. Dan Akaka. If it wasn't for former Rep. Ed Case's last-minute charge against Akaka in the Democratic primary, there would have been little interest in the election season.
This year, the big race is for mayor of Honolulu and precisely no one has expressed interest in running against incumbent Mufi Hannemann.
A lot of this has to do with money. Incumbents realize that raising enough money early in the campaign season is often enough to scare off challengers. Hannemann already has raised more than $1 million for a seat that cost $6 million in 2004.
Hannemann, however, won by less than 2,000 votes against former Councilman Duke Bainum, so Hannemann would not appear to be that strong a candidate. But the advantage belongs to the incumbent in any race.
Last year, Lingle had more than $6 million and her election was never in doubt.
More and more, as one local politician said in a discussion last week, "the major qualification for office is money."
It is true, when a millionaire -- or, in the case of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire -- announces an interest in public service, the advantage almost always rests with "Daddy Warbucks."
Those without their own seven-figure checking account must get the money by asking for it. Continually asking for and then successfully receiving more money assures a victory. It also erodes everyone's confidence in the elections and the government.
When the public sees campaign winners as only those born to wealth or predisposed to a roll in the hay with lobbyists, there is little interest in voting or government.
No candidates equals no change, and no change means no reason to expect things will get better.
Without limits on campaign fundraising and spending, and no talk of term limits, then perhaps we have already elected a new monarchy.