[NOTE: Additional information was added to the final paragraph after initial publication.]
Every now and then something blows up in Maui politics that just stops the world cold. Former County Councilman Wayne Nishiki insisting to the MauiTime staff (in defiance of his campaign statements) that he didn’t take developer contributions was one such moment. Former Westside Republican state Representative Brian Blundell getting busted for soliciting a (male) vice cop in a Honolulu men’s room was another.
Of course, those are sensational, even criminal acts, but completely above board political maneuvering can be just as shattering. Like yesterday’s surprise International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 142 endorsement of Mayor Alan Arakawa.
“He has shown tremendous leadership in leading Maui County forward during this difficult and trying times [sic],” ILWU Maui Division Director William Kennison said in a May 26 press release. “The Maui Division along with the Longshore Division feel that he understands what is needed to keep our people employed.”
I found this surprising for three reasons. First, because Arakawa is a Republican and–at least as far as the national party platform is concerned–diametrically opposed to all things organized labor. Considering that Maui politics tends to be skewed for a variety of reasons, this isn’t so shocking.
The timing of the endorsement is another matter. Arakawa won’t run for reelection until 2014, which is two full years away. Endorsing him (or any candidate) so far in the future runs the risk that some event will break in the next 24 months that makes said endorsement seem shortsighted or just plain foolish. For Kennison, the risk was worth it.
“Our bylaws say I can only help endorsed candidates,” Kennison told me the day after the endorsement. “This was our idea, and now we can do fundraisers for him.”
Kennison said Arakawa has been a great friend to labor: putting union members on county boards and commissions, supporting alternative energy proposals and pursuing greater film industry interest in the county. “We’re very pleased with him,” Kennison said, adding that he’s noticed a “tremendous difference” in Arakawa’s policies now over those he pushed during his first mayoral term.
But most surprising about the endorsement is the fact two years ago, during the 2010 Maui County Mayor’s election, ILWU Local 142 endorsed then-Mayor Charmaine Tavares’ bid for reelection. And in very strong terms, too.
“Mayor Tavares has stood by our labor employees and important industries such as tourism and agriculture from day one,” said Kennison in this Mar. 8, 2010 Maui News story. “Her support has not wavered. The fact that she was endorsed at all three review levels shows that we consider her leadership important to the future of Maui County.”
But that was then, Kennison said. Today, he believes it’s vital to get the rank and file union members out trumpeting Arakawa’s name immediately. And that meant a full, official endorsement.
Something tells me this isn’t the last we’re going to hear about this, if for no other reason than the fact that ILWU Local 142 Division Clerk Joycelyn Victorino is married to Maui County Councilman Mike Victorino, who also happens to be the most prominent possible opponent for Arakawa in the 2014 mayoral election.