The Politics of Connection

The work of campaigning is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I’m much more comfortable reading a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research than I am waving signs on the side of the road or knocking on people’s doors. But, as I’m learning, part of running for office is to force yourself out of your comfort zone. For me, it’s all WAY out of my comfort zone.

As Barack Obama wrote in the Audacity of Hope, campaigns are “sometimes uplifting, occasionally harrowing, but always slightly ridiculous.” The reason we swallow our shame and jump through these hoops (waving, knocking, standing on street corners passing out fliers, etc.) is to connect with people. Not just to get you to vote (though that’s helpful too), but to glimpse into your life. Whether it’s just an instant of eye contact on your way to work or a conversation about policy on your doorstep — these are the connections that allow for understanding and, ultimately, better decision making.

I strongly believe that the only way to represent all of Kaua’i is to develop the capacity to empathize with everyone. Much more important than any specific policy or ideology is the ability to see an issue from someone else’s perspective. So that when we disagree, as we eventually will, I can understand where you are coming from and you can understand where I am coming from.

From housing to climate change, the choices we make over the next few years will determine our island’s course for generations. And there are no simple solutions. To move forward we need both the courage to act boldly and the ability to engage in difficult and emotional conversations. If we allow the corrosive tribalism that’s overtaken national politics to dominate our local dialogue, we make it harder to work together on solutions. And if we mix up personal identity with policy prescriptions, then progress becomes impossible.

Seeing each other as neighbors and community members rather than members of an opposing ideology is the most important step we can take towards building a new kind of politics. One that’s focused on solutions and not divisions.

And so I step out of my car, I grab my banner, and I wave.

Luke Evslin
A Leap of Hope

This is a leap that I never expected to take. I have never been elected to public office, I'm not any good at asking people to donate money, and I don't have all of the answers. But, I believe in you. I believe in the power of democracy and the potential of our communities. And I believe that together, we can build a better future for Kauaʻi. 

My name is Luke Evslin. I was born and raised in Wailua by my parents, Dr. Lee and Micki Evslin. I currently live in Kapahi with my wife Sokchea and our daughter, Finley. By working hard, perpetuating our shared values, and staying committed to finding solutions-- I hope to earn your support for a seat on the Kauaʻi County Council. I don't expect that we will agree on all things, all the time. But, I do hope that you can trust me to be honest, to make decisions based on the best available evidence, and to remain open and accountable to you. 

Ten years ago I started a business along with two of my closest friends. At the time, it was difficult to get a Hawaiʻi built outrigger canoe— as most production had been outsourced to China. Our lives were formed around canoe paddling, and so we felt strongly that it was important for canoes to be built in Hawaiʻi.

After talking about it for years, we rode our bikes to the industrial center, and with nothing but an idealistic dream— we signed a lease that day.

It felt like we’d just jumped off a cliff.

But, we landed on our feet. Within two months we were in production. Within two years, we were Hawaiʻi’s largest producer of outrigger canoes. And now the team of talented craftsmen at our shop have built over 2,000 canoes.

But to get there, we had to take that first jump.

I also know that taking a leap doesn’t always work out how we’d expect. In 2010, I took the most fateful jump of my life. I jumped out of my escort boat in the Molokaʻi Hoe and was hit by the boat's propeller five times across my back. There’s nothing like lying in the back of a fishing boat in a pool of your own blood to make you come to terms with life. But, in preparing myself to die, I ended up learning about the value of life. For the duration of that 45 minute boat trip, I felt completely connected to everyone. For a brief moment I could feel a link between me, my family, my friends, and my community. Within hours the feeling was gone. But, the impact it made on me has never left. That day I realized that if there’s a meaning to our lives— it’s in those connections.

The long recovery process changed my life. It forced me to move away from my business on Oʻahu and temporarily back in with my parents on Kauaʻi. And, in a roundabout fashion, it brought me to this decision today.

And so now I’m taking another jump. I am running for a seat on the Kauaʻi County Council. And I hope that you will come with me.

I am worried about the future of Kauaʻi. I worry that the cost of housing will never come down and that my generation will be forced to move away because we can’t find a place to live. I worry that the three feet of sea level rise I am likely to see within my lifetime will decimate our economy and environment in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine. I worry that our island of finite resources can't handle endless growth, and, from the other side of the spectrum, I also worry about how we're going to deal with the fiscal impact of declining population growth and an aging population. Most of all, I worry that right when we need it most— growing divisiveness in our local and national discourse will prevent collective long-term solutions on any of these fronts.

Yet, I am running for Kauaʻi County Council because I have hope. I believe that Kauaʻi can fix our housing crisis while retaining the character of our island. I believe that we can get to 100% renewable electricity and transportation by 2045. I believe we can see sustained economic growth while preparing for a rapidly changing climate. And I believe that we can strengthen our communities in the process. 

None of it is inevitable. Not even close. But, I’m running for office because I believe that they are possible. I am running for office because I know that when we come together to talk about solutions and when we engage in democracy and our civic institutions, we discover that we’re all fighting for the same things. That we are all part of the same community. I am running for office because I have hope. 

As I take this leap of hope, I hope that you will leap with me. 

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