Chad Blair: Can the Green Party make Hawaii greener?

Money, as they say, is the mother’s milk of politics, but it’s remarkable how much – and how often – Hawaii’s candidates suckle their nipples for the 2022 election.

Josh Green is at the head of the Democrats’ herd, having organized nearly 20 fundraisers for his gubernatorial campaign, including four in the past 30 days.

Likely opponent Kirk Caldwell has held 10, including four in December, while Vicky Cayetano has held three in total, all in recent months.

Jill Tokuda has organized eight fundraisers for her candidacy for lieutenant governor, four in the past three weeks. Other fellow Democrats and LG wannabes aren’t far behind: Sylvia Luke (seven fundraisers, four since December 2), Sherry Menor-McNamara (five), Ikaika Anderson (four) and Keith Amemiya and Ron Menor ( one each, although Menor has yet to officially announce his candidacy).

I bring this up not to discuss the dominant Democratic Party of Hawaii or the minority Republican Party of Hawaii, but to shed light on a third party in the Islands who is also interested in green – but not necessarily greenbacks.

The Green Party of Hawaii places more emphasis on four main platform positions: ecological wisdom, popular democracy, social and economic justice, and non-violence.

Established in the islands in 1991, the Greens believe they are the only political party to advocate for real change. Here’s what their website says about it:

“There is a link between protecting the land and its inhabitants and democracy. Hawaii’s history reflects, and in many ways exaggerates, the global trend of declining power of democratic institutions and destruction of the environment. The corruption and injustice of “free trade” policies and the continued privatization of our common heritage have taken their toll on our land and our democracy. “

“Our candidates follow these values,” said Ramona Hussey, the party secretary. (They don’t use the term secretary, she explains, saying it was deemed sexist in the 1980s). “For me, grassroots democracy is really about the people, because we don’t elect representatives just to take care of everyone for us. I believe we elect them to represent us and represent our interests.

Easy primary

I spoke to Hussey after receiving an email from her this week asking the media to let the Greens know the Greens are inviting activists to run for office in 2022.

“Our full ballot status means green candidates can easily qualify for the general election,” the email explained. (More on that in a moment.)

When was the last time you heard about a political party seeking recruits through a press release?

Sylvia Litchfield and Ramona Hussey during a Zoom Monday call with the author.
Sylvia Litchfield (top left) and Ramona Hussey (bottom center) during a Zoom Monday call with the author.

I spoke on a Zoom call this week with Hussey, a Kailua lawyer and retired UH administrator William S. Richardson School of Law, as well as Sylvia Litchfield, party membership chair and former co-chair.

“I’m also on the media committee and the nominating committee,” said Litchfield, who is a retired RN in Makawao.

Litchfield said his party issued the press release to let as many people as possible in Hawaii know that “there is another way to present yourself as a progressive, where you don’t have to stand up against one. Democratic candidate outgoing in a primary “.

By that, she means that a Green candidate who makes the primary ballot will likely go through the general election to face the Democratic candidate and a GOP candidate.

Compare that with non-partisan candidates for Hawaii’s Legislative Assembly, who must garner 10% of the total vote to move from primary to general, or get a vote equal to or greater than the lowest vote received by partisan candidates. (eg Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians).

“We are providing a path to overthrow these corporate-bought incumbents,” she explains. “Taking a lot of money out of politics is a worthwhile goal.”

The Green Party does not accept corporate donations, and candidates typically receive campaign funds with government matching, a program administered by the Hawaii State Campaign Expenses Commission.

Litchfield, in a follow-up email, said the Green candidates are not seen as “the disturbing” spoiler effect “here locally, due to the lack of Republican candidates in many races. As you know, of many incumbent Democrats run with virtually no opposition, time and time again. (Or against weak Republican candidates.) So in most cases, it’s safe to vote green, which is another reason our Green candidates performed well.

While there were no green candidates for state office on the 2020 ballot, several in Maui County ran in 2018 and performed respectable.

Mish Shishido won 30% of the vote against incumbent Democratic Senator Roz Baker, who won with 61%. Nick Nikhilananda got 26% of the vote in his loss to State Representative Lynn DeCoite, who won 66%. And Jen Mather lost to Rep. Angus McKelvey 56% to 17%. Republican Chayne Marten won 20% in this race.

Unlike the Three Greens, the Democratic incumbents received tens of thousands of dollars from Altria Client Services (the tobacco industry), Anheuser-Busch, Pfizer, Allstate Insurance, Hawaii Dental PAC, Maui Hotel & Lodging Association PAC, United Public Workers PAC, the Outrigger Hotels Hawaii PAC, the Hawaii Real Estate Association, and the Cattlemen Action Legislative Fund, to name a few.

Go green?

While the Greens have largely failed to elect candidates for the islands’ election – a notable exception is in Hawaii County, where several Greens sat on county council in the 1990s before it became non-partisan – they performed better than in many other states.

In 1992, Greens candidate Linda Martin shocked many when she won nearly 14% of the vote against US Senator Dan Inouye. The legendary incumbent won easily with 54% of the vote, but it was an election tinged with scandal in which Republican Rick Reed won 25% and Libertarian Richard Rowland 2%.

The Greens are also fielding candidates for federal office, including the president. People still wonder if Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

The origins of the Green Party can be traced back to the founding of Green parties in Germany, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The first state-level green political party in the United States was formed in Maine in 1984.

Colin Moore, director of the UH Public Policy Center, said it was “almost impossible for a third party to be very successful” in America.

“The most successful were Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party at the turn of the 20th century,” he said.

“Taking a lot of money out of politics is a worthwhile goal.” – Sylvie Litchfield

TR, of course, was a former Republican and President. Moore said he often asks his students which third is the most successful. Answer: The Republican Party, founded in 1850.

Even if they were to win, he said, Hawaii’s Greens would likely be marginalized in a Democratic-controlled legislature, which has been the case for decades.

Where the Greens can make an impact is to draw attention to political issues.

“Often, third parties exist to highlight party issues, and when candidates are successful, the two main parties absorb those issues or even the candidates,” Moore said. “It allows you to draw attention to the political issues that interest them through media coverage. So even if they don’t win the election, they influence politics.

Ramona Hussey says: “Sometimes it’s about the message rather than winning or losing. Hopefully we want to win a lot of races and attract a lot of Greens, but it’s all about the message.

If more Greens manage to take office, maybe there will be this message: it’s time to cut back on fundraising.

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