The potentially bitter Senate primary contest between Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa mirrors the infighting within the Hawaii Democratic Party during the battle for the 2008 presidential nomination, where the two “took leading roles on opposite sides of the primary that pitted Barack Obama versus Hillary Rodham Clinton,” a recent article in Roll Call notes.
Like many other states in 2008, the local party in Hawaii was split into two camps. Schatz, then a former state representative, was the political director and top spokesman for the Obama campaign. Meanwhile, Hanabusa, who was then the state Senate president, served as Clinton’s state spokeswoman.
When Hanabusa officially entered the race last week, she told the Star-Advertiser: ““We need someone there who can hit the ground running, who understands the issues, and understands how critical various types of positions are to Hawaii.”
The only problem is that someone else already hit the ground running, and that was Schatz, who already has taken over as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power. That, I think, qualifies as hitting the ground running.
And while Hanabusa points to her political experience as setting her apart from Schatz, it’s the same experience that also counts as political baggage that could weigh her down.
Back in my days at the Star-Bulletin, I reported on strange union contract involving the Laborers Union.
One of the state’s largest refuse disposal firms signed a labor contract making it a “union shop” but didn’t tell its workers for more than 17 years, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
The labor contract between Honolulu Disposal Service, Inc. and the Laborers’ International Union Local 368 was renewed and updated five times between 1979 and 1996, but they “failed or refused to inform” most employees of its existence, the suit says.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said Honolulu attorney Jim Bickerton, who filed the suit along with co-counsel Barry Sullivan.
Although the company signed a full contract with the union, they later claimed to have a side deal, an oral agreement that only a handful of workers would receive the union benefits. The deal didn’t become known until another union moved to organize the company’s employees and the company stepped forward to say that they already had a union.
It turned out that Hanabusa represented the Laborers Union and its attempts to defend the secret contract.
It’s just one lesser known example of what’s out there in Hanabusa’s background, along with the funny ties with developer Jeff Stone and the Ko Olina fun and games.
I haven’t seen these kinds of entanglements in Schatz’s background. That’s a meaningful difference, in my view.