Two mystery men in Hawaii politics are in the biggest race in the State.
Let’s start with David Ige. Who’s he? Here are the basics: David Ige’s from Pearl City on Oahu. His father served in World War Two in the famed 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, saw action in France, and earned a purple heart and the bronze star. After the war, he worked as a steelworker in Honolulu. His mother was a registered nurse and a dental assistant. They had six boys. David is the second youngest.
Ige got his degree at UH in electrical engineering and later got a master’s degree in business administration while working at GTE Hawaiian Tel in the 1980s. He was an engineer in the private sector for a long time before Governor George Ariyoshi appointed him to the House to fill a vacancy in 1985. He’s been in politics ever since. He remained in the House until he switched over to the Senate in 1994.
But what exactly are Ige his politics? For starters, he’s got some of the trappings of a classic Hawaii liberal. He has voted in favor of the gay marriage bill. He has openly criticized the rapid development of luxury condominiums in Kaakako and has said such development is irresponsible. And a few weeks ago, I noted that he’s open to dispensaries for medical marijuana patients.
One of his favorite talking points is education. He’s a big fan of public schools and wants to work hard to help out the teachers, students, and every stakeholder in our public institutions. But that’s only part of him. What’s he like?
His friends describe him as humble. For example, when he was nearing the end of his high school years at Pearl City, he got accepted to prestigious places like University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also applied for UH.
But he also knew that his family wasn’t rich. He knew that it would have been a struggle for the family to pay tuition for Cal or MIT. It would also make college for his younger brother harder too. So he didn’t tell anyone and went to UH. Now that’s humility.
The other unknown is Elwin Ahu. Ahu grew up in Kalihi, but, like Ige, was raised in Pearl City. He went to Kamehameha Schools and was a volleyball star. After a career in volleyball at Graceland College in Iowa, Ahu got his law degree from the University of Hawaii in 1980.
Ahu was a trial lawyer with stints at Legal Aid in Molokai, then as a public defender in Honolulu before entering a private practice. He worked civil and criminal jury trials on Oahu until he was appointed as a full-time District Court judge in 1994. By then he’d been married twice.
Back in 2001, he was featured in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He was candid about what was going on in his life at the time. He said that as his family life started to disintegrate, he found a new faith while sitting in traffic.
He pulled out an old tape with a pastor’s sermon on it. That led to him attending the New Hope Christian Fellowship and Pastor Wayne Cordeiro. Things started looking up for him.
“Once I put God in my life, everything went click, click, click,” he told the Advertiser. Click it did. In 1997, then-Governor Ben Cayetano appointed him to the Circuit Court and a year later he married a third time.
He remained on the circuit court bench for only two years before stepping down to become a full-time pastor at New Hope Metro in Honolulu. He announced his candidacy in February of this year.
When he did, he said that “government leaders are no longer grateful, it seems, for Divine Guidance, nor are they mindful of our Hawaiian heritage, consequently we’ve lost our uniqueness as an island state.”
Later, in an interview, Ahu said that his decision to run for office came from what happened with the same-sex marriage debate in in 2013. He said that holding the special session as opposed to a ballot measure moved him to get into politics. Not surprisingly, Ahu opposed the special session.
Since winning the lieutenant governor’s slot for the GOP, Ahu has not been making too many headlines of his own, and his stance on political issues remains unclear. Still yet, many see him as a rising star in Hawaii politics. Win or lose, no one expects this to be his last race.
It’s rare in Hawaii for unknown candidates vying for the top office. It’s a race usually reserved for well-known and seasoned politicians. Whoever wins this race, our executive branch will be headed by new faces indeed.