Like any journalist, I sometimes get things wrong.
On Aug. 19 I wrote a column about how the 2022 races for governor and lieutenant governor were shaping up. It focused on the Democratic candidates, all familiar figures in local politics.
“And what about the Republicans?” I wrote. “Andria Tupola, the GOP nominee three years ago, is now on the Honolulu City Council and is not running for gov. I have no idea who in the party possibly could.”
It turns out that at least one GOP candidate had already declared his campaign for the state’s top gig — three months before my column ran.
A few days later I received an email from Jen Davis, the vice chair for Paul Morgan, the gubernatorial candidate.
“I must sincerely apologize to you as it was an oversight of ours to not send you our press release from May 2021 directly,” she wrote. “I have attached it to this email for your convenience.”
Davis added, “I had a pleasant chuckle when I read the line ‘Republicans: Beats me.’”
My reaction was not to chuckle but to kick myself for being lazy. A quick call to the local GOP or an internet search would have turned up that information.
More on Morgan in a moment, but I think my oversight also illustrates something that is commonly known: just how difficult it is for a new candidate to get the media’s attention, and how dominant the Democratic Party of Hawaii has become.
Hawaii has only had two Republican governors since statehood in 1959. The other six have been Democrats, including two who served 12 years each before term limits were enacted. Democrats have won the last three races for governor in lopsided landslides.
‘Civil Servant At Heart’
Morgan, a self-employed business consultant in Kailua-Kona and a former Hawaii Army National Guard member, aims to change that dominance.
“Our campaign is grassroots,” he told me recently. “We knew what we were facing getting into the campaign business, and running as a Republican, too. We are working to get the message out, and then we have to take it to a higher level.”
Morgan knows that he will have to advertise on TV, radio, newspapers and social media, as well as travel the state. That costs big bucks. His first financial disclosure form shows him with a mere $4,000 in cash on hand as of June 30, and his only donor is Davis, a Realtor who happens to be Morgan’s fiancee.
Nevertheless, they are undeterred.
“Paul is a clear moderate, falling just right of center on the political spectrum,” Davis said in her Aug. 25 email. “His goal is to bring people together and help people help themselves. Although he has had no direct political involvement in the past, Paul is a civil servant at heart. Helping folks succeed is what drives him in life.”
What Morgan, 46, has is an abundance of self-confidence, something he traces to his supportive mother when he was growing up in Batesville, Mississippi. A running back who began playing football in seventh grade, Morgan went on to play for Vanderbilt in Tennessee, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in human and organization development, and to play two years of Arena Pro Ball in Birmingham, Alabama.
Reminded by his mother that he can’t play football for the rest of his life — “You can be whatever you want to be,” he recalled her saying — Morgan then went to work as a caseworker in child protective services outside Pittsburgh, then in adult probation in Dallas.
Morgan moved to Kailua-Kona in 2013, where he has sold insurance with State Farm and worked to help student athletes. He was an assistant football coach at Kamehameha Schools’ Keeau campus and at Kealakehe High School.
Owner of Paul Morgan Consulting, he currently specializes in development of small minority, veteran and women-owned businesses.
He also has a YouTube presence with “Mobile Joe’s Brand,” which features Morgan promoting business and other interests.
What does Morgan stand for politically?
“Republican principles that are foundational in truth, equality of opportunity, limited government, and justice for all are the basis of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” his campaign website says.
- Christian values — namely treating people the way he would like to be treated
- Fiscal conservatism — advocating for low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt
- Freedom — supporting citizens in their effort toward life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness
He also offers more details on specific issues including prison reform and Native Hawaiians, and agriculture, transportation and immigration.
I asked Morgan what he thinks about former President Donald Trump, who is playing an outsize role in political races across the nation. Like a practiced politician, he deflected.
“That is one of the great things about this country — everybody has freedom of speech that allows for them to share their perspective,” he responded. “We are in Hawaii and we are focused on the needs of Hawaii.”
Lynn Finnegan, the acting Hawaii Republican Party chair, said Morgan reminds her of “the passionate people who are out there who want to make a difference. He is basically a citizen stepping up to the plate to run for governor, with a good educational and business background.”
Finnegan, a former state representative who once ran for lieutenant governor, also said Morgan understands “that he needs to do a lot of work to be known in the state of Hawaii.”
She added that the GOP expects to field other candidates for governor and LG as well as other elective offices.
“We believe competition is good,” she said.
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