Hawaii’s former governors are worried about the state’s future and think it is time for significant political change.
In lengthy, wide-ranging interviews, four of Hawaii’s five living former governors — men who spent decades in the public limelight — expressed deep concern for the state’s lost sense of direction and fear for the economic prospects of Hawaii’s young people. Only Linda Lingle, Republican governor from 2002 to 2010, declined to be interviewed for this story.
The four former governors — George Ariyoshi, 93, John Waihee III, 73, Ben Cayetano, 80, and Neil Abercrombie, 81 — spoke somberly and earnestly about issues they said had been troubling them recently.
Together the four governed Hawaii for some 33 years, more than half of the state’s political history since statehood was achieved in 1959. All are Democrats who rose to power amid the party’s 60-year ascendancy, and all spent time as lawmakers in the Hawaii Legislature.
All four were path-breakers and political outliers. Ariyoshi was the first governor of Japanese descent in the state, and the first in the nation, which subjected him at times to criticism and racism.