What's the attraction of lieutenant governor?


POSTED: Sunday, October 18, 2009

Declaring “;Me, too,”; state Sen. Robert Bunda last week signed up for membership in the club of politicos running for lieutenant governor, the list of which now numbers six or seven, if the wannabe count includes both those who have said “;for sure”; and “;kinda, maybe.”;

With so many people shooting for the gubernatorial sidekick job, one has to wonder what the attraction is.

The pay is pretty good. Even with the 13 percent pay cut-furlough deal the current governor has ordered — as leadership by example, don't you know — taking home nearly $120,000 a year plus health benefits and potential for a sturdy pension sure looks good in today's employment market.

As LG, you get chauffeured around, you have your “;people”; to do stuff for you, you eat lots of free meals and collect yards and yards of lei. Even if most of them are strung with dendrobiums from Thailand, once in a while you catch a choice, fragrant, three-strand Kauai maile to drape around the dresser mirror.

The junk part is that you get driven to places you may not want to go to, your “;people”; are constantly pulling you from one event to another, and the meals aren't necessarily what you want to eat, often spiced with flavors for favors or future obligations.

You have little power, other than being in charge of petitions for legal name changes (how did that come to be, by the way?) and are required to defend without question the person who is top dog.

LGs customarily have minimal roles in forming administration policy. After helping win an election by filling in the personality/ social/demographic gaps of the premier candidate, junior governors are assigned some sort of “;initiative,”; usually deemed of middling importance but with PR value, like education, drug-free environments, children or any of the other apple-pie issues invulnerable to criticism.

LG-ship is viewed as paying your dues, as training camp for the big time, and apparently that's the goal for the majority of candidates.

A couple of them, however, seem to be positioning themselves as guardians against same-sex marriage and hope to draw money for their campaigns from cash-ready, like-minded special interest groups. They anticipate that one or the other of gubernatorial candidates who has the same desire to limit civil rights could win the election and thus be in step with their views.

Others, like City Councilman Rod Tam, are just looking for work. Having run the gamut of offices from the state Capitol to Honolulu Hale, Tam's stretch in the Council chamber is about to end. He is also considering a run for mayor, and while that would be an entertaining campaign, someone who loves him should dissuade him from futility.

However that goes, the reality show that is Hawaii politics will be lively next year. With resignation from their current posts required before they can start dancing for upstairs offices, three senators and two House members will leave the stage vacant for other contestants. Let's hope there will be new ones. There are enough reruns.


Cynthia Oi can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).