A man so badly outnumbered has to have a sense of humor. On the Senate floor, standing beneath an enormous nautilus-shell chandelier, Slom motions the majority leader, Democratic Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, to stop by. "This man didn't want me to sleep out on the lawn in a tent," Slom says. Galuteria laughs and pays Slom a compliment. "Twenty-four to one, when Sam Slom is the one -- it's about even," he says.
It's collegial, but of course when it comes to voting, it's not at all even. Most of the time, Slom loses 24-1.
Slom, 68, is originally from Allentown, Pa., and has been in Hawaii since he moved here to attend college in 1960. He seems to know everyone. For example, he was for many years an economist at the Bank of Hawaii, where he worked closely with Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's grandmother. He also met the future president when Obama was a teenager.
Slom has also known Hawaii's new Democratic governor, Neil Abercrombie, from the days Slom represented the conservative Young Americans for Freedom at Vietnam War demonstrations and Abercrombie was with the leftist Students for a Democratic Society.
Like a lot of Hawaii pols, Slom was mystified by Abercrombie's short-lived effort to make public Obama's original, long-form birth certificate, which the president has never given permission to release. The birther issue had been waning in recent months, but Abercrombie's announcement reignited it. "I think it was part ego," Slom says of Abercrombie's motive, "and it might have been part anger that this (birther) thing was still going on. It was dying down, so to bring it up was inappropriate."
And anyway, amid a budget crisis, Abercrombie and Democrats in the Hawaii Senate have more important things to do -- like drain the state's emergency funds and regulate dog leashes. By votes of 24-1.