Candidates for No. 2 job known for their activism
By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Kevin Dayton
The best-known candidates in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor are former state senator and rancher Malama Solomon and prominent environmental lawyer David Henkin, who both have long public records of activism.
Solomon took often controversial positions in her 16 years in the Senate, while Henkin clashed with the military and others as he pressed his environmental protection agenda in Hawai'i's courtrooms.
Solomon has been politically linked for years with leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Randy Iwase and was Iwase's campaign co-chairperson until she filed to run for lieutenant governor.
Iwase and Solomon were members of the same dissident faction in the Senate, and served together as co-chairs of the Senate Planning and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.
Henkin, meanwhile, worked on environmental causes with William Aila Jr., who is Iwase's leading primary challenger in the governor's race.
Henkin urged Aila to run for governor, and then Henkin opted to make his own first run for public office to try to provide Aila with a politically and philosophically compatible running mate.
Henkin, 41, was born in Los Angeles, attended Yale University and graduated from Yale Law School in 1991.
He worked under a federal appeals court judge in Georgia and practiced environmental law in the San Francisco area before moving to Hawai'i in 1995 for what was supposed to be an eight-month stint with the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.
The organization is now known as Earthjustice, and Henkin has been pursuing environmental and cultural protection cases in court in Hawai'i for more than a decade. He is on unpaid leave from his law practice with Earthjustice during the campaign.
As a lawyer for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in the 1990s, Henkin represented the Hawai'i Audubon Society and National Audubon Society in their effort to protect the endangered 'alala, or Hawaiian crow, and pressed Honolulu officials to upgrade sewage treatment at the city's two largest plants.
In 1998 Henkin was part of a successful effort to persuade a federal judge to order the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitats for 245 species of endangered and threatened Native Hawaiian plants.
More recently, Henkin represented critics of the U.S. Army's plans to base Stryker armored vehicles in Hawai'i, arguing the military violated the National Environmental Policy Act by excluding the public from the Stryker environmental impact review process, and by failing to look at locations other than Hawai'i where the vehicles could be based.
That case is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Henkin and the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund also represented Malama Makua when that group pressed the Army to conduct environmental studies on the impact of military training in Makua Valley. The valley is home to more than 40 endangered species and 100 archaeological features, and the Army halted live-fire training in the valley in 1998 after a series of brushfires.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Henkin's clients and the Army struck a deal that allowed live-fire training to resume in the valley. Under the terms of that agreement, the Army was supposed to conduct an extensive environmental review of the impact 50 years of training had on the cultural and environmental resources in the valley.
That study still hasn't been completed, and the Army hasn't staged live-fire exercises in Makua since 2004. Last year the Army asked a federal judge to allow it to resume live-fire training in the valley before 7,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers deployed to Iraq this summer, arguing that training in Makua is vital to save lives.
Henkin and his clients countered that the military had other options for training the deploying soldiers, and a federal judge denied the Army's request to resume live-fire training there until the environmental report is complete.
"William and I both feel a need to be very protective of our agricultural land and we need to be protective of our open spaces, and we have to be doing development in the future that is going to not lead to more sprawl and more traffic," Henkin said.
"Obviously we need homes for our people, we need jobs for our people, but we don't think that destroying what's left of what makes this place special is the right way to go."
Solomon, 55, was raised on her family's ranch in North Kohala. She has a master's degree in education foundations from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and obtained a doctoral degree in education administration from Oregon State University under a Ford Foundation fellowship.
Solomon was an associate professor in Hawaiian Studies at UH-Hilo from 1978 to 1982.
She got her start in politics at age 27 by winning election as one of the first Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees. After serving there for about a year and a half, Solomon resigned from OHA to make a successful run for the Senate in 1982 ,representing East Maui and parts of the Big Island, including Kohala, North Kona, Hamakua and North Hilo.
In her time in the Senate, Solomon served stints as majority leader and majority floor leader, and chaired the committees on higher education, lower education and agriculture. She remained in the Senate until she was defeated by former Big Island Mayor Lorraine Inouye in the 1998 Democratic primary.
Solomon said her advocacy for creation of the School of Oceans & Earth Sciences & Technology, the Center for Hawaiian Studies and the Center on the Family are among her key accomplishments at the Legislature.
She also backed the construction of UH's Stan Sheriff Center, and was instrumental in getting state money for the long-term- care facility for Honoka'a. She said she also helped organize the public-private partnership that advanced the North Hawai'i Community Hospital, and played a major part in obtaining state funding for the hospital project.
Solomon also introduced the bill that removed the state's immunity from lawsuits for back rent and other claims from OHA and the Hawaiian Home Lands trust, giving the Hawaiian agencies the ability to sue the state.
Solomon was deeply involved in some touchy issues in the Senate.
In 1995 then-Gov. Ben Cayetano accused Solomon of stalling his appointments in an effort to secure high-paying state jobs for unnamed state lawmakers, a charge Solomon denied.
In another controversy, Solomon and Iwase in 1997 backed a bill to have the state Land Use Commission issue "Certificates of Registration" to Hawaiians authorizing them to practice traditional and customary gathering rights on private property.
Critics charged the bill would undermine a 1995 state Supreme Court decision affirming Hawaiians' gathering rights on private property, and hundreds of Hawaiians gathered for a 24-hour protest at the state Legislature opposing the bill.
Solomon finally stood in front of the crowd and tore up a copy of the bill in a symbolic gesture signaling that the measure was dead.
Since leaving the Senate, Solomon has remained active in Democratic Party politics, serving as co-chairwoman of the Big Island Democratic Party and later as district chairwoman for portions of West Hawai'i.
She has also been involved in a ranch her family has operated for more than 80 years. It now includes more than 1,000 acres in Honoka'a, Waimea and North Kohala on family-owned land and leased state and private parcels. The operation also includes greenhouse farming of hydroponic lettuce, she said.
Solomon said she is running "because of the development primarily, especially here on the Neighbor Islands. I think everywhere now we have traffic gridlock ... and the Lingle administration, they have not been pro-active in solving our problems."
Gov. Linda Lingle "sends all her department heads out here, and we have meeting after meeting after meeting, and nothing gets done," Solomon said.
Reach Kevin Dayton at firstname.lastname@example.org.