Sam Slom, longtime Republican senator who relished his ‘lone ranger’ role, dies at 81

State Sen. Sam Slom was often referred to as the “lone ranger” in Hawaii politics.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 5:56 PM HST|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 5:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Sen. Sam Slom was often referred to as the “lone ranger” in Hawaii politics. That’s because for years he was the only Republican in the Senate, a role his fellow lawmakers say he relished.

“He was the loyal opposition,” said state Rep. Gene Ward, who represented part of Slom’s East Honolulu District and was a friend and admirer. “He was the good guy who could stand up for 10 years and take on 24 other senators.”

Slom, who served for more than 20 years in the state Senate, died Sunday at 81.

Slom’s colleagues and friends from both sides of the aisle remembered Slom on Monday as eloquent and intellectual. He’d been the chief economist at Bank of Hawaii, founder of Small Business Hawaii, and mastered the sharp soundbite softened slightly by humor before ever stepping onto the Senate floor.

State Sen. Donna Kim said Slom occasionally managed to talk a few Democrats into changing their votes.

“He had a humorous side to him as well as a serious side,” Kim said.

“But he did bring up really good points, and really, I think, made us think about things.”

It wasn’t unusual for Slom to speak dozens of times in a long legislative session, usually fighting measures he thought spent too much or gave government too much power. But colleagues said it never seemed personal.

“He’d never really confronted individuals,” Ward said. “And I think that was a characteristic of his background, his training. And the his temperament was always upbeat, and encouraging.”

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has known Slom from his years in the broadcast industry.

“Even if you disagreed with him, that’s what you wanted,” Blangiadi said. “To have somebody there, somebody who saw the other side of it.”

After 20 years, Slom lost his seat to energetic campaigner Stanley Chang, the same year President Trump was elected. Slom continued to support Trump and defended his zealous supporters.

Ward said Slom changed his approach.

“So what I’m going to remember is, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t take politics seriously. Work for the people of Hawaii. Work for the people that live in your district,” Ward said.

Ward said Slom died in the hospital of multiple complications from chronic health issues. Plans for a remembrance have not been announced. Gov. Josh Green ordered state flags flown at half-staff in Slom’s honor.