Friday, November 27, 2015         


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It all comes down to your vote


It's called the primary election, even though usually it's viewed as secondary to the general election, when most final decisions about filling political positions are made.

This election is different. Thanks to the churn produced by City Council term limits and the political ambition of incumbents seeking higher office, voters will issue some important final verdicts on Saturday.


» Mufi Hannemann and James "Duke" Aiona, in the Democratic and Republican primary races for governor.
» Brian Schatz and Lynn Finnegan, in the Democratic and Republican primary races for lieutenant governor.
» Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu mayor.
» Don Pacarro, city prosecutor.
» John White (District 2), Rich Turbin (District 4) and Frank Lavoie (District 6), Honolulu City Council.
City races are nonpartisan, and a new mayor and new prosecutor will emerge after this weekend. Honolulu will choose among four mayoral contenders to fill out the rest of Mufi Hannemann's term, which he surrendered to enter the governor's race; the same applies for the prosecutor seat, vacated by Peter Carlisle's run for mayor. Of the four open City Council jobs, only state school board veteran Breene Harimoto is running unopposed, but any of the other three races could also be decided this weekend by a candidate who wins more than half the valid votes cast.

And even in the actual primaries, which are only the semifinals, the Democratic gubernatorial showdown between Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is the biggest political blockbuster in years. The lieutenant governor's spot is generating unusual excitement, enticing a wide field of incumbents to sacrifice safe seats to vie for the No. 2 spot.

How can anyone miss the chance to be part of this action?

Those who have been dismayed by this state's paltry turnout at the polls in recent years can draw some encouragement from reports that requests for absentee ballots have surged by 24 percent. Perhaps an exciting race or two can overcome the characteristic Hawaii voter malaise, after all.

Hawaii is conducting the nation's final full primary election (Louisiana has a congressional runoff set for Oct. 2), half-time in a game pumped up by tea-party fervor, political upsets and incumbent turnover. After this weekend, the stage will be set for a barn-burner of a general election in which control of Congress is up for grabs.

The political landscape in the islands is distinct, but the stakes are just as high. The state faces enormous budgetary land mines to navigate, educational reforms to execute, a long-range future to plan. The city is about to embark on colossal public-works programs: the rail project and the overhaul of the city's sewage system topping the list.

Choosing the right leaders to set the course is critical. In the past weeks the Star-Advertiser has made its recommendations in key races, choices that we recap here. Endorsements are important expressions of a newspaper's editorial view; making them is a duty that we undertake with the utmost care.

But while newspapers have a voice, only the people have the vote. It's the key that unlocks a healthy democracy. Saturday brings another chance to use it.

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