Hanabusa coasts on leadership claims while vague on policy

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is campaigning for governor on her abilities as a leader, but she is failing the first obligation of political leadership: telling voters exactly where she intends to lead us.

She has campaigned mostly on generalities, platitudes and shots at Ige’s obvious gaffes, such as January’s false nuclear missile alert that went awry in almost every way imaginable.

Hanabusa has shown little interest, however, in explaining nitty-gritty policies she would enact to address Hawaii’s wide range of stubborn challenges.

The priorities she outlines on her webpage and in public statements touch all the right bases: affordable housing, homelessness, public education, living wages, infrastructure, health care and trustworthy government.

But she relies on bromides about taking an active role, supporting teachers, building an economy for all, protecting transportation lifelines and providing health care for vulnerable populations, while avoiding specific policy proposals to address the problems.

She says she’ll “swiftly implement” the Legislature’s recent funding for affordable housing, but gives little idea of how she’ll implement it. This is of key importance because the legislation gives the governor considerable leeway and there is much contention over how it should be done.

In recent weeks, Hana­busa has declined to be interviewed for news stories exploring issue differences among gubernatorial candidates, such as a July 3 Honolulu Star-­Advertiser story on ohana zones for the homeless and a July 9 story in Honolulu Civil Beat on growing Hawaii’s economy.

I signed up for her campaign mailing list in hope of learning more about her platform, but get mostly breathless pleas to send her money.

Those following the election say that so far she appears to be running a play-it-safe campaign, attempting to coast to victory on her big lead over Ige in early polling, paid marketing she controls and her many endorsements from labor unions and fellow politicians.

One likened it to the “Rose Garden Strategy” often used by sitting presidents to protect their perceived leads by wrapping themselves in the trappings of power and inevitability.

But playing it too safe can be risky; as today’s public survey numbers show, polls are only momentary snapshots in time, and long lists of endorsements also can be seen by voters as long lists of political debts taxpayers will end up paying for.

It’s not to say Ige isn’t equally capable of being evasive with his mantra of “doing the right thing in the right way,” but he answers questions and has a first-term record we can look at to judge what he has done and where he is heading.

If Hanabusa is the leader she says, she should be able to paint a far more clear and detailed picture of what the first term of a Hanabusa administration would look like in terms of specific policies and accomplishments for a better Hawaii.