Reclaiming Democracy in Hawai'i

By Paul Deslauriers 


Since the 1950s, the Democratic Party has ruled Hawaii’s state politics. A system – for the most part – where big money interests sway party bosses, who in turn demand loyalty from the elected officials under their party’s wing. On a County level it is big money interests supporting the election of a majority on the County Council. This system is being successfully challenged in Maui County and provides a blueprint to move from Corporate Rule to Home Rule. An strategy of great importance in this post pandemic era.


In 2018, the Maui Pono Network, organized under a Standard PAC, helped bring a majority of Progressive Candidates onto the Maui County Council. This facilitates a collective, cost/effective approach for all the 14 selected progressives we referred to as Ohana Candidates. This practical approach to systemic change attracted over 200 volunteers.


For the first time in 125 years, a majority of progressives were now serving on the county council. Despite having one of the elected Ohana candidates renounce her progressive values, we continue to learn and grow in the process.


One of the Maui Pono Network’s services is to inform the community about who they empower with their vote. We want to objectively disclose candidates’ voting record, civic engagement, accomplishments, affiliations and funding sources.


This year, a core group of six dedicated community activists and several advisers crafted a list of 47 relevant questions and organized interviews; the pandemic has supported a zoom conference format, a great vehicle to inform the public about candidates.


Maui County State Representative and County Council candidates were interviewed starting April 30, 2020 with 32 candidates interviewed to date. Each individual interview lasts about one hour. Interviews were streamed live on Maui Pono Network’s Facebook where we had up to 2,200 viewers and also on YouTube. The interviews are also posted on AKAKU TV. Check out some of the posts on


With our due diligence complete, a panel of progressive leaders selected the 2020 Maui Ohana Candidates and enter into another phase: campaigning. We are getting teams ready for social media, phone banks, and card distribution centers.

To amplify this impact, we are networking Maui County Progressive Organizations under one central directory. The  network amplifies the progressive connection, strength and communications. It also provides an important community directory in light of the uncertain time we face and ability to access services, support and ways to plug in to community initiatives.

Seven Steps to Reclaim Democracy

This is not rocket science. It is simple logical grassroots organizing that anyone with some basic communication and organizing skills can do for their county. There are many reasons for focusing on County Politics to win the battle for Home Rule vs. Corporate Rule. I described our successful process and how it can transform governments to serve the common good instead of corporate profits in SEVEN STEPS TO RECLAIM DEMOCRACY; An Empowering Guide for Systemic Change. Ralph Nader’s response to reading it:


I have never read a book like this on civic engagement. If there exists a better book to light this path to electing good public officials, let me know.”  Ralph Nader


To learn more about this vital strategy that is even more important in this post pandemic world, go to www.ReclaimDemocracy.US. For its local application go to

Paul Deslauriers is the Director of the Maui Pono Network and also an organization development consultant for the past forty-three years.