What makes a person get up in the morning and decide to run for office? What did his or her friends and family think? What are they hearing from voters on the campaign trail? Do they have any advice for others thinking about tossing their hat in the ring? And what about that sign waving?
The Maui Weekly decided to go behind the scenes and ask first-time candidates for seats in South and West Maui their candid--and sometimes surprising--views on these and other topics.
First-time Democratic candidates Kaniela Ing and Colin Hanlon are vying for the South Maui District 11 (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) seat in the State House of Representatives, along with former Rep. Joseph Bertram III and Netra Halperin, who has previously run for the office. The winner of the Aug. 11 primary will face Republican Rep. George Fontaine in the General Election.
Democrat Colin Hanlon is a first-time candidate running to represent South Maui in District 11 (Kīhei, Wailea, Mākena) of the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives. Also running for the seat are first-timer Kaniela Ing, former Rep. Joseph Bertram III and Netra Halperin.
When asked why he is running, Ing talked about the changes he has seen on Maui. "I have seen so many changes in my life," said Ing. "I've seen some positive progress, but I have seen some opportunities slipping away for future generations. I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy this place the way I have."
On the campaign trail, Ing has heard that voters' number one priority is a Kihei High School. They also want young people and new blood in politics.
What about sign waving? "Honestly, it's horrible," said Ing. "You can't wear sunglasses, so you can really get sandblasted by the side of the road. But it's tradition here, and it might not get you votes, but by not doing it, it will lose you votes."
Ing's advice to any potential candidates is practical and personal. "It's not an easy decision," he said. "It takes a lot of sacrifice. It takes a toll on your family, your friends, your personal life and your social life. It's ironically, very lonely. You're meeting thousands of people a day, but at the end of the day, it's all you. Even with the people helping with the campaign, and it's really appreciated, but if you lose, they're not losing, and if you win, it's everyone's victory."
Hanlon, chief professional officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui, shared his view regarding the energy a campaign requires.
"Campaigning is very difficult and time-consuming," Hanlon said. "If you have a family and a full-time job like I do, you need to be prepared to work harder than you ever have, and your family needs to support you."
But it can also be fun. Hanlon said he enjoys talking to the voters in the district--and that includes sign waving.
"I love it!" he exclaimed. "Hawai'i voters know you are out there working hard to earn their votes when you sign wave and walk your neighborhood. I also love the exercise!"
When asked what was the one thing he heard the most from voters, Hanlon responded, "In this bad economy, I hear about the need for jobs. People here in South Maui want good-wage jobs that will keep families together on Maui."
He added, "Walking my neighborhood I've had a wonderful time building a deeper connection with my community and neighbors."
Edward Ka'ahui, 71, a candidate for the District 10 (Lahaina, Ka'anapali, Kapalua, Ma'alaea, Kihei, North Kihei) seat in the State House, is coming to public service from a seasoned perspective. His opponent in the Aug. 11 Democratic Primary is incumbent Rep. Angus McKelvey. The winner will face off against Republican Chayne Marten.
Ka'ahui decided to run after his family told him to stop grumbling about things and do something about them.
"We were trying to encourage the younger generation to get involved," he said, "and my family said, 'Why don't you do it yourself.' And so I said, 'I'm going to do it.' Then I found out hard it is just to run--to even register."
What's sign waving like on the West side? "I think sign waving in the district is important and gets the message done," said Ka'ahui. "With the gated communities, you can't go house to house and shake their hands. But with sign waving, you can catch them running errands. In Lahaina Town when I go door to door, they always say, 'Glad you came.'"
Ka'ahui hears a lot about traffic. "Taking kids to school, going to work--Lahaina and Wailuku--all those cars leaving Lahaina to work in Wailuku and leaving Wailuku to work in Lahaina," he said. "It's both ways."
His advice for anyone thinking of running for office is straightforward. "I would recommend that they prepare themselves before they even think of running--physically, economically, mentally--you have to be in the right state of mind to run."
The deadline to register for the 2012 General Election is Monday, Oct. 8, and you can cast your ballots on "Super Tuesday," Nov. 6.
To register to vote, visit hawaii.gov/elections/voters/registration.htm to download the WikiWiki Voter Registration (Hawai'i's registration-by-mail procedure), contact the County of Maui Office of Elections at (808) 270-7749, or visit the State of Hawai'i Office of Elections' Facebook page at www.facebook.com/elections808.