It's Hawaii's second most powerful office - the lieutenant governor's seat. But in the first public forum to bring together all five candidates, put on by the LGBT and Labor Caucuses, each candidate laid out their case as to why they are second to none.
It took place Saturday at the Democratic Party of Hawaii headquarters. The candidates held a civil, friendly, even conciliatory forum in which they were very respectful to each other.
Currently, 5 people are running for Lt. Governor. All are democrats:
Bernard Carvalho, Kauai Mayor since 2008, and a civil servant since 1985
State Senator Will Espero, a legislator for 19 years
State Senator Josh Green, a lawmaker since 2004, and an ER doctor and medical director
Kim Coco Iwamoto, former Board of Education member, and lawyer
Jill Tokuda, State Senator since 2006 and former aide to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono when Hirono was lieutenant governor
A couple dozen folks came out Saturday, many wondering why the candidates are running for what is often seen as a ceremonial post. Honolulu resident Javier Mendez sums up the sentiment. "As it is right now, it's a post with no real power and no real function."
Shan Tsutsui left the Lt. Governor post at the end of January, sparking questions about how effective the position really is. Here is what the candidates said in response to that question:
State Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kailua-Kaneohe): "The LG's office is extremely important. There are so many issues facing the state. No one individual, no one governor, can do it all."
Kim Coco Iwamoto: "The next Lt. Governor cannot sit around and be the understudy to the governor. They can do so much. They have a huge office."
State Sen. Josh Green (D, Naalehu-Kailua-Kona) : "As Lt. Governor I'll be a powerful advocate for people. I am already, in my everyday life as a doctor."
State Sen. Will Espero (D, ‘Ewa Beach-portion of ‘Ewa Villages): "I will be a strong advocate for Hawaii because it's the people of Hawaii who will elect me. I will continue to work on the issues I'm working on now, and more so."
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho: "I want to be the voice. I want to add value to the office of Lt. Governor. I can work with any governor. For the Lt. Governor, this is the place of the people."
The LGBT and Labor Caucuses sponsored the forum, but the questions went far beyond LGBT and labor issues. The candidates answered questions on a range of topics like the economy, federal funding, and homelessness.
Mendez says he went into this event certain of who he wanted to vote for, but after hearing everyone speak, isn't sure anymore. "I have two or three I'd like to see as Lt. Governor. I think it's a difficult race."
The LGBT and Labor Caucuses have another forum planned in April to hear from the Congressional candidates.