Gary Hooser

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Gary Hooser / The Weekly has been exploring the Democratic race for lieutenant governor. Up this week: Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser.

Why serve as LG? You have a strong voice in the Senate.

I think as LG I’d be an even stronger voice in the state. It’s a stronger platform for advocacy on sustainability, energy independence, educational excellence and social justice. Your voice is louder as LG.

People might question that the LG’s voice is stronger.

The LG’s office is quasi-independent. You’re directly elected by the people in the primary. What I intend to do to use that office to promote energy independence, sustainability, educational excellence. In alignment with the governor, hopefully. But regardless of who the governor is, Gary Hooser is going to be the same Gary Hooser he’s always been.

Let’s take the example of civil unions. If the new governor was not supportive of equality for everyone, I would feel compelled to continue to speak out regardless. I would feel an obligation and duty to support those values, the values that my life is based on and that are important to Hawaii.

The same is true on environmental issues. I was the sponsor of the solar hot water mandate. I had the idea, introduced the bill, and it’s law today. I hope the next governor would say, “You take the ball on energy independence and run with it.”

Or Furlough Fridays, the solution I proposed within 10 days was the solution that we ended up with all those months later. I believe in getting out in front. The people elect me to lead, not to sit in the background and see which way the wind’s blowing. I believe that’s the kind of leader people want.

How far can independence go? Can you imagine lining up votes on the House floor at cross-purposes with the governor?

Mazie Hirono walked the picket lines with teachers against the will of Gov.Cayetano. The people that elect me to office have certain expectations about who I am and what I stand for and what I’m going to do. So on an issue like civil unions, I would be as strong and advocate for that issue as LG and I have been as Senate majority leader. I need to say that.

There’s a sense that you’re ideally part of a progressive team with Neil Abercrombie. I wonder if you’re a better fit with Mufi Hannemann.

I think both of them are pretty smart guys. I’d like to think that both of them would recognize that I bring a lot of talent to the table, and that they’d want to use that talent to their benefit. If a conservative Democrat like Mufi Hannemann is elected, I would think you would want a strong progressive in the No. 2 seat. Not a milquetoast progressive, not a wishy-washy progressive who talks a lot but doesn’t do anything–

Wow, you’re really warming to the fight.

Everybody talks the talk. Where are they when the crunch comes? Are they going to send a letter or are they going to get out there and do something? You want as strong a progressive as possible to balance someone like Mayor Hannemann. And I know him well enough to be able talk to him. To say, “I don’t want to cause you problems, but can we work this out?” Hopefully these kinds of discussions would not be a source of divisiveness, but a way I could influence policy.

I will be the same person whether it’s Abercrombie or Hannemann, and I know and respect them both.