Richar Borreca

On Politics

By Richard Borreca

Sunday, September 9, 2001

Class of ’74’s influence
still felt today

There are class reunions for Farrington and class reunions for Punahou. My favorite class was never in school and doesn't have reunions, but it still should be remembered.

Ask a legislator when he or she was elected and you will find someone fondly recalling the first year he won and the class of freshmen who served with him.

My favorite is the 1974 legislative class.

It was born as a product of student activism of the '60s, encouraged by Hawaii's only year of real campaign spending reform and hurried on by the opportunity of the moment in 1973.

"We had an appreciation of our chances of getting elected, we were the beneficiaries of reform and reapportionment," says District Judge Russell Blair.

Blair was one of the 21 new House members elected in 1974. He was just 24, a law school student who now acknowledges that he was able to run by using his law school loans and some money from his grandmother.

Kate Stanley, a former VISTA volunteer, also ran that year. She went on to serve as a progressive and forceful House Judiciary Committee chairwoman. Later she worked for several state administrations and now is helping to guide Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono's office.

"I think we came in to do things, we talked about the environment and housing. We worked on Kakaako. I did welfare reform," she recalls.

"There were new Democrats, young, thinking people who worked in communities," she said.

The election revolution also saw both Speaker of the House Tadao Beppu and Vice Speaker Pedro Dela Cruz lose re-election.

Nearly 30 years after that class of 1974 arrived, Hawaii's political landscape is still much determined by those players.

Gov. Ben Cayetano was first elected in 1974 along with Norman Mizuguchi, former state Senate president and public union stalwart.

Henry Peters, former speaker of the House, defrocked Bishop Estate trustee and businessman, was a dissident Democrat from Waianae when he was first elected in 1974.

The Senate also saw new faces with Reps. Patsy Young, Jean King and Pat Saiki all moving up from the House. Included in the group was a legislative newcomer -- but a City Hall veteran -- Republican Mary George, who would become one of the most reliable and thoughtful Republicans to serve in the Senate.

It was the House, however, that had the players who would last.

Cayetano recalls his freshman class as "talented and idealistic."

"It was right after Watergate, there was a reformist attitude in the air -- we all had that idealism," Cayetano remembers.

Blair explains that many budding politicians were drawn to the Legislature after Richard Garcia had been elected in 1972 and served as the reform-minded chairman of the Health Committee.

Garcia, who had risen as high as House vice speaker, was later convicted on charges of defrauding investors in an agricultural business.

Key to the 21 newcomers entering the House in 1974 was the change in state campaign-spending laws.

Politicians were limited to specific amounts, so rank newcomers could not be outspent by incumbents.

"It is what made it possible for me to win because I could raise the $3,000 or so," Stanley said.

"It costs so much more now to run, Russell and I could win because we walked our districts three times," she said.

Moving now to the present, is it possible again to have such a wholesale shift in legislative power?

Today's veterans say no, but then nearly three decades ago it was the veterans of that era who doubted whether Ben Cayetano, Neil Abercrombie, Kate Stanley, Carl Takamura, Norman Mizuguchi, Kina'u Kamali'i, Donna Ikeda, Lisa Naito, Mits Shito, or Russell Blair would last even one term.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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