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Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Hawaii politics is
family affair

HERE at the Capitol one of the things most worried about is brain drain.

First we worried that our children would leave. They would go to college, join the military or simply pack their bags and go.

If they wanted to come back, they couldn't because we had no well-paying jobs for our children.

Then, legislators worried that our talented citizens were leaving. Again, the issue was economic.

Under this argument families lured by the cheap land and employment surpluses were dashing to Las Vegas and other points in pursuit of a better life.

Somehow in this island-wide exodus, we have allowed ourselves to exchange rain forests for deserts and call it good. As American author Richard Ford said, "Leaving reminds us of what we can part with and what we can't, then offers us something new to look forward to, to dream about."

All this, however, ignores Hawaii's great growth industry -- politics and government.

The public life in Hawaii is something that we not only encourage but endorse, because we pass it down from father to son and daughter.

The real reason for faith in Hawaii is that it is a place worthy of being handed down in the family. Other locations may be the land of opportunity, but Hawaii is where the family name counts for generations.

For example, if former Congressman and Lt. Gov. Tom Gill no longer gets daily attention in the news media, it may because of the competition from his sons. Gary Gill, a former city councilman, is now Health Department deputy director, Eric just won a battle for control of the Hotel Workers Union and lawyer son Tony is a leader in the fight against civil service reform as an attorney for the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

In the union election, Gill's son beat Art Rutledge's kid, Tony Rutledge.

Our Legislature is something of a family place, not because of the subject matter but because of the participants.

Senate scions in today's Senate include David Matsuura, who represents the Hilo district once represented by his late father, Richard Matsuura. Matt Matsunaga, son of one of Hawaii's most honored Democratic Party founders, the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, also serves in the Senate.

THE state House holds three political heirs. The son of Robert Oshiro, another of the Democratic Party's founding strategists, Marcus, serves as vice speaker. The son of another Democratic power, the former Big Island representative and union leader, Yoshito Takamine, Dwight, runs the House Finance Committee.

And Ron Menor, the son of former senator and state Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Menor, also is a House member.

Over on the Honolulu City Council, when Councilman John DeSoto goes home and says "Hi, Mom," he is addressing Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee A. Frenchy DeSoto.

Our courts also have a family sense of security. James Burns, the respected chief judge of the Intermediate Court of Appeals, is the son of Hawaii s greatest governor, John A. Burns. Just named to the District Court is Barbara Richardson, the daughter of former Supreme Court Justice William S. Richardson.

If you know of other family ties in Hawaii power structure, please pass them along. Until then consider the power couple, David and Naomi Pendleton. He is a Republican in the House and she is an elected member of the school board. They have three kids.

Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
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Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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