Tapestries mono orange

I remember Juggie

The former legislator Ernest Heen, Jr. was a passionate advocate for the grassroots

Essay People
Ikaika M Hussey

Eggs, bacon, toast, coffee times two. That was the standard order at marathon talk story sessions at the old Hungry Lion restaurant, one full meal for me and just coffee for Juggie. He would joke about my love of food, and would sit back and nurse his coffee while providing me with a guided tour of his democratic party.

I knew Mr. Heen from my run for state house at age 22. I would spend mornings holding signs, afternoons walking the district, and needed a place from which to make campaign phone calls. One day I gathered the nerve to call the party chair – Judge Walter Heen, a man whose name I knew from the news– and asked him if I could come in to make calls. Yes, he said, and I soon found myself to be a regular (and regularly the youngest) in an office of longtime party volunteers, including Juggie.

The party headquarters is a good setting into which remember Juggie. He described to me once how in one gubernatorial campaign, he was tasked with setting up a campaign headquarters. Another campaign volunteer wanted to go for a flashy retail location, with high rent and high visibility, to maximize exposure of the candidate. Juggie didn’t go for this. “What’s the purpose of a headquarters?,” he asked me. If it’s to engage with potential voters, then so be it – pay the high rent, staff it adequately, and build up a public program that brings people in. But if the goal is to really do the work of running and winning a campaign, which is a rather unglamorous list: licking stamps and envelopes; making phone calls to raise money and get out the vote; stuffing envelopes; storing signs; printing handbills; organizing volunteers to hold signs on the side of the road; and other unexciting activities, then gosh, why waste a retail location? From that point of view, the office the Hawaii Democratic Party occupied when I frequented it in the early 2000’s made perfect sense: at 404 Ward Avenue, in a building that will soon be no more, next to a dance studio, and above a Southern-themed bar that served incredibly large, underpriced, and sweetly inebriating mai tais.

But back to the campaign headquarters that Juggie was telling me about: his solution was to paper the beautiful glass windows fronting the street, so that the campaign volunteers inside that expensive room could focus on those very laborious, dull, and supremely important tasks. I believe the candidate won.

That Juggie spent so much time thinking about the purpose of a campaign headquarters says a lot about his approach to politics. “Power comes in two forms,” he said, “money, or people.” A well-thought out campaign operation, when applied to a cause with heart and believers, could lead to a win. It’s an idea that’s been proven time and again, from Save Our Surf to the PKO. For we hipsters, it’s even the message of Kickstarter: lots of little guys can make a big difference. And though this approach might seem quaint in an age of highly capitalized power politics, it’s really the only thing that’s ever worked.