Familiar candidate aims for governor

  • Wendell Kaehuaea

HILO — Wendell Kaehuaea is hoping the 23rd time will be the charm.

After 22 unsuccessful campaigns for local political office, Kaehuaea is shooting for his first statewide race, and this time he’s aiming high. All the way to governor.

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“I’ve got a better chance at a statewide race than I have in the past on the Big Island,” Kaehuaea said.

He’s previously run for mayor — four times — and for the County Council, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and several seats in the state Legislature. He usually raises just a thousand dollars or so, and his vote tally is in the hundreds, not thousands.

Kaehuaea, 75, says he isn’t fazed that incumbent Gov. David Ige and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa — who plans to challenge Ige in the Democratic primary — have greater name recognition and a more visible track record. He’s throwing his hat in anyway.

People are fed up with politicians, he said.

“The trend is like Trump,” he said. “The attitude is of taking care of the regular people, not the politicians and the corporations that write the checks.”

Candidate filing begins Feb. 1, and Kaehuaea plans to be first in line.

State Rep. Andria Tupola, a two-term Oahu Republican, and John Carroll, who was an Oahu state legislator in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are the likely candidates on the GOP side.

Kaehuaea, who lives in Panaewa, said he’s observed numerous politicians through his camera lens during his long career as a videographer, and he knows “their pluses and minuses.” A former Na Leo O Hawaii production coordinator, Kaehuaea currently works as a security guard.

Kaehuaea said he brings a unique voice to the race, and he’s hoping he gets a chance to participate in candidate forums and debates, something he struggled with last election when he was in a 13-candidate race for mayor and not all candidates were invited.

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Regardless, he said, he won’t be bad-mouthing other candidates.

“I’m not going to talk stink about anyone,” Kaehuaea said. “I’m going to stay on my own path.”