Rap sheets, campaign signs don't mix
If you put the question to the voters, I'd bet few in Hawaii could name their state representative, state senator or even the member representing them in Congress.
But bring up the name of an elected public official who has just been busted and everybody knows the scofflaw.
This has been a remarkable six months for the number of public leaders who were arrested.
There was Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu (D, Waipahu-Waikele) arrested for drunken driving, John Waihee, III, an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee also arrested for DUI, and then Sen. Ron Menor (D, Mililani-Waipio) not just arrested but actually sent to jail this weekend for driving drunk with a child (his own) in the car.
A DUI conviction is not like bank robbery, but according to the signs when entering Canada it is enough of a blot on your record to deny you entry. Canadians consider drunken driving a felony.
If substance abuse is a politician's problem, perhaps none had it worse that former Sen. Milton Holt, who actually managed to get arrested in 1993 for public drunkenness during Mardi Gras. Later Holt had a sad series of arrests for using crystal meth and finally a federal conviction for stealing funds from his campaign.
Elections turn on the issue of trust. There is no question that the inability of Hillary Clinton to get enough people to say "Yes" when asked if they trusted her will cost her the presidential nomination. There are all sorts of reasons why someone trusts a politician: Because they look like you, think like you or, in the case of local pols, because you actually know them.
The public may not trust you if you continue to promise lower taxes or more jobs and the only thing they get from government is more unemployment and lousy service. So the trick is to make the obscure or abstract promises seem tangible.
Today legislators are trying to sell the abstraction of "sustainability" as one of their accomplishments and a reason to return them to office. Of course, with $4 gasoline, closed dairies and farms and nearly an entire island filing for unemployment, sustainability is more of a joke than just an abstract.
When politicians are arrested, trust is shattered. By 1998 the convictions of notable Democrats from Holt to former House Speaker Danny Kihano resulted in distrust for the state's Democrats.
The reverberations went through the 2002 elections and helped elect Linda Lingle governor. The GOP also has had its share of convictions, including two for sexual misconduct.
For either party, a rap sheet is no way to advertise a campaign season.