Making sense of the 2006 General Election
November 09, 2006
You know it was a hell of an election when the Democratic Party
takes control of the U.S. House of Representatives (the U.S. Senate is
still evenly split at press time), Upcountry Councilwoman Charmaine Tavares handily defeats incumbent Mayor Alan Arakawa for reelection and Democratic U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka gets reelected for yet another term yet the one thing I can't get over is that Joe Bertram III
finally got himself elected. That's right folks: Greenways Maui
activist Bertram—the short guy with the short gray hair who's always
speaking at public hearings about the lack of bikeways and connector
roads—is now the 11th District state Representative.
It's not a surprise that Democrat Mazie Hirono got herself elected to the Second District U.S. Congress seat vacated by Ed Case. What is surprising is that, in this time when President George W. Bush's
approval ratings can't rise above 40 percent; when the war in Iraq has
been condemned by virtually every American whose lips don't move when
he or she reads; when across the nation, the term "Republican
Congressman"has become synonomous with "page-seducing, bribe-taking
crook"—the Democrats could barely scrape together a razor-thin majority
in the House. With the Senate still in the air, it's doubtful Democrats
will be able to do much more than gum up legislation and hamstring
Bush's tattered agenda, whatever that may be. Even so, look for
something new on C-SPAN: actual hearings on secret spying on Americans,
the Pentagon's army of private contractors and, of course, the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
And there's something to be said for all the bad people who lost nationwide: Ohio's loathesome Ken Blackwell, architect of the 2004 election debacle in that state; Katherine Harris, orchestrator of Florida's 2000 election nightmare; Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's caveman Republican Senator; and perhaps even George "Macaca"Allen,
Virginia's Republican Senator and pretty boy heir-apparent to George W,
though he lost by less than 6,000 votes and will probably ask for a
Speaking of wars, how about that Mayor's race? Indeed, as early as 8
p.m. election night a sense of loss seemed to permeate Arakawa's inner
circle at his Wailuku headquarters. As the Mayor stood by the door and
played chess against a supporter—and a band played to a huge crowd of
happy faces at Tavares HQ just two blocks away—outgoing Republican
state Representative Chris Halford
gave a pep talk to a couple glum mayoral aides standing in front of
trays of food that had already grown cold. "With this crowd, you have
to be upbeat," he said.
Tavares ran a remarkable campaign in which she never once
articulated a concrete proposal, plan or point on how to "make Maui No
Ka Oi again." While it's good that some of Arakawa's less-than-stellar
department heads (Water and Finance, among others) will have to go, but
considering the amount of big developer money that flowed into her
campaign—to say nothing of Democratic U.S. Senator Dan Inouye's surprise endorsement—her eventual governing "style" shouldn't be hard to discern.
Indeed, what was surprising about the election was the near-complete lack of surprises. Sure, Angus McKelvey is the new 10th District state Representative and good ol' Joe Bertram is sitting pretty over in the 11th. ButDemocratic incumbents Joe Souki, Bob Nakasone, Kyle Yamashita and Mele Carroll all retain their respective seats in the state Legislature.
And was anyone shocked that Dan Akaka overwhelmed Windward Oahu state Representative Cynthia Thielen, drafted by Governor Linda Lingle right after the Primary Election? Or that Lingle herself wiped the floor with challenger Randy Iwase, outspending him something like 10,000 to one? Then again, the
state Democratic Party did prove a vital point that if you raise
virtually no money, conduct no internal polling and generally do no
campaigning in a race against an incumbent governor with a mediocre
record of accomplishment but who managed to raise $6 million, then you
will lose by more than 25 percentage points.
But most unsurprising was the way Maui's labor/land development
establishment once again got what they wanted on the County Council.
Across the board, the people who write checks at Dowling Company,
Alexander &Baldwin and the Maui Land &Pineapple Company got
exactly what they wanted: Joe Pontanilla and Mike Molina reelected; Gladys Baisa, Mike Victorino and Bill Medeiros
elected. Of their considerably less funded challengers, attorney Lance
Collins did the best, coming within 1,500 votes of Pontanilla, but the
rest were all blown away. It's funny, because all the winners ran on
making big changes, but with their financial backing, it's hard to see
how the council will be different.
Then there were all those ballot measures. Let's start with the
state constitutional amendments: the changing of the UHBoard of Regents
appointment process, establishment of a salary commission, elimination
of due process in cases of repeated sexual assault against minors and
issuance of tax-exempt bonds for agri-business all passed and the
elimination of a mandatory retirement age for judges failed.
Whoopdedo—except for the Board of Regents thing, every one of our
pre-election amendment endorsements went down in flames.
But over in Maui County charter amendment country, we were two for
three: the splitting of the county Department of Public Works and
Environmental Management measure passed (thank God), as did the
affordable housing fund. But where personal injury claims against the
county are concerned, Maui voters are a cold-blooded bunch, and opted
to ignore our recommendation to vote that one down, which limits the
filing time of injury claims to just six months. MTW
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