Politics: David Ige

Charted a new course
Photo: Aaron Yoshino 

Gov. David Ige swept into office last year after thumping his predecessor to become the first governor in Hawai‘i history to oust an elected Democrat. The veteran lawmaker brought a reputation for consensus building, an engineer’s eye for detail and a corresponding lack of swagger.


He’s drawn some criticism for that deliberative approach and his communication style, even from some of his former colleagues in the state Legislature. But in his first year, Ige, 59, also staked out key positions that part from conventional play-it-safe politics: he supported the construction of the billion-plus-dollar Thirty Meter Telescope despite vocal protests; he opposed the proposal to merge Hawaiian Electric with Florida-based NextEra Energy (he says: “It’s really not in the best interest of the people of Hawai‘i”);  and he urged spending more money on the UH Cancer Center than on the university’s popular sports programs. 


Ige campaigned for improved government, innovative jobs and affordable housing.


“Then, boom! On day one, all of these things show up that are not in your plan,” he says. “You don’t have the option of not being responsible for these things.”


 He’s pleased with the state’s progress on tax modernization, which he says identified $30 million in fraudulent returns. He estimates that changing the pension fund from 12 monthly payouts to one yearly will save the state $1 billion over 20 years.


A graduate of Hawai‘i public schools, he’s aware of the toll of 100-degree classrooms. As a parent of three young adults, his priorities are more pragmatic than poetic.


 “It’s about leadership and trying to provide direction in responding to the biggest needs: housing, cost of living, the fact that our young people have no way of choosing to live here.”