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Vacancies offer fresh opportunities

LAST UPDATED: 5:48 p.m. HST, Oct 28, 2010

The Star-Advertiser's endorsements for the state Legislature today cover portions of west of Honolulu's city core, from Moanalua to Waipahu. The area is a mix of aging residential neighborhoods and newer developments, high-density communities and industrial pockets. Traffic is a constant issue. Property crime, especially car theft, is high. With rail comes the promise of more development, including facelifts for parts of old Waipahu town and a controversial proposal calling for three 30-story condominium towers on the former Kam Drive-In site.


Today is the third in a weeklong series of endorsements on state Legislature races, divided into general areas. We reviewed candidates' backgrounds, civil rights positions, community involvement and ideas to propel the state forward. Incumbency was a factor, but not a rubber stamp. And in a toss-up between the Democrat or Republican, we favored the loyal-opposition Republican.
» Senate District 15 (Salt Lake-Foster Village): Four-term House Democrat Glenn Wakai is the choice to fill this seat vacated by Norman Sakamoto's unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. A onetime reporter for KHNL-TV, Wakai, 43, opposes any tax increase and, if needed, considers shipboard gambling and a limited number of casinos as a possible alternative to increase state revenues. He calls for fiscal responsibility extending into the state's economic recovery period. Republican opponent Ben Pascua is a 31-year-old veteran of the Afghanistan conflict with an arch-conservative agenda.

» House District 31 (Moanalua Valley-Salt Lake): Two first-time candidates -- Democrat Linda Ichiyama, 24, and Republican Garner Shimizu, 51 -- are seeking Wakai's old seat. Ichiyama has exceptional smarts -- she's a former student member of the Board of Education, has a degree in international politics from Georgetown and attends the University of Hawaii law school -- and has won endorsements from a range of organizations. Shimizu offers the real-life, hands-on experience of a businessman as vice president of Master Sheet Metal Inc., and is an active and well- respected member of the community. It's a tough call, but we like Ichiyama's potential.

» House District 32 (Mapunapuna-Foster Village): For the seat vacated by House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan to run for lieutenant governor, our endorsement goes to Republican Aaron Johanson, 30. Johanson, a first-time candidate, has superior credentials as a former policy analyst for Finnegan, deputy chief of staff to Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Mint and a personnel director in the George W. Bush White House, where he helped vet potential appointees. His opponent is Democrat Lei Sharsh, 50, a first-time candidate and behavioral health specialist with the state Department of Education.

» House District 33 (Halawa-Aiea): Democrat Blake Oshiro, 40, the House majority leader, has been a low-key but consistent proponent of civil rights and deserves re-election. He is the author of House Bill 444 and was a recipient of the Hawaii State Bar Association's Champion for Social Justice and the Japanese American Citizens League's Distinguished Service awards for 2010. His opponent is Republican Sam Kong, 50, a florist and first-time candidate.

» House District 34 (Newtown-Royal Summit): We like Democrat K. Mark Takai, who has been active in community affairs and sits on the House Education and Higher Education committees. An officer in the Hawaii Air National Guard, Takai also has stressed partnerships to increase educational opportunities for military children. His opponent is Republican William Wong, 80, a retired educator and first-time candidate.

» House District 35 (Pearl City-Waipahu): Democrat Henry Aquino, 33, who has served one term, and Republican Reginald Yago, 34, a Realtor and first-time candidate, share several positions, including opposition to HB 444. In an area hard hit by graffiti, Aquino has championed volunteer paint-over efforts and authored a bill requiring taggers to clean their mess. We'd like to see him continue.

» House District 36 (Pearl City-Pacific Palisades): Democrat Roy Takumi, 58, chairs the House Education and Higher Education committees and brings needed experience and a steady hand at a time when Hawaii's public schools face a host of reforms -- with the possibility of an appointed school board, plus measures tied to a $75 million federal Race to the Top grant, efforts to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement and a coming switch to more rigorous national standards. His opponent is Republican Reed Shiraki, 42, a chiropractor and first-time candidate.

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