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Four years ago, Josh Green, then a Hawaii island state senator, was on his way to becoming the strongest lieutenant governor candidate in a contested Democratic primary.
Green, who was never considered part of the state’s Democratic establishment, put together a well-funded political operation based on tireless campaigning and an energetic internet attack.
Early in the race, Green, a Hawaii island-based emergency room physician, popped ahead in the polls. The race for lieutenant governor had been considered a toss-up with Green barely ahead of Jill Tokuda, Bernard Carvalho, Will Espero and Kim Coco Iwamoto.
Green was one of the first candidates to start advertising, nearly a year before the primary four years ago. Green’s campaign was based on stock Democratic issues: help working families, health care, higher wages and affordable housing. The only difference was that Green was advertising heavily on Facebook.
As the 2018 primary election neared, Green shot ahead with 34% of the vote. Green eventually won his race with 30.2% of the vote in a five-way race.
Now, four years later, Green’s campaign for governor was dramatically boosted when he figuratively adopted the entire state as his patient, prescribing treatment for everyone in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Green was an ever-present source of information, with a daily tally of COVID patients, hospital admissions and medical advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If he had been able to hand out aspirin on Bishop Street, he would have been there.
As a strong Democrat, Green now moves into the general election teamed up with state Rep. Sylvia Luke, the veteran, strong-willed chairwoman of the House Finance Committee.
Tricky, divisive issues, such as Honolulu’s over- budget, long-delayed 20-mile rail project, did not win her support. In fact, during the last campaign, Luke noted, “I refused to saddle the residents of Oahu with a permanent tax increase to fund the rail project.”
The question now: How will Green, a progressive independent, and Luke, one of the Legislature’s most prominent leaders, work together first in the general election contest and then, if they win the election, as governor and lieutenant governor?
Green is ready to say he and Luke are partners, ready to face the GOP ticket.
“I view Sylvia Luke, our LG nominee, as a close friend, colleague and critical member of our team, and we are already working together as partners,” Green said in an interview.
Echoing this political buddy-buddy system, Luke can also see Green’s good points.
“Josh brings a lot of strength; he has led the way for the last four years. I bring different strengths, and you can already see the partnership with us willing to collaborate,” Luke said in a TV interview after the pair’s triumph.
Both Green and Luke have been dynamic political leaders. How they go forward together is a question still to be answered.
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