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Community engagement counts

LAST UPDATED: 5:47 p.m. HST, Oct 28, 2010

The eastern part of Oahu, stretching around Koko Head and Hawaii Kai to the Koolaupoko region from Waimanalo to Kaneohe, comprises neighborhoods struggling to keep development in balance with their rural-to-suburban character.


Today is the fourth in a weeklong series of endorsements on state Legislature races. 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. In a toss-up between the Democrat or Republican, we favored the loyal-opposition Republican.
» For last week's endorsements -- governor, Congress and school board -- see www.staradvertiser.com, Editorials section. For more on all candidates and the election, click on the website's "VOTE 2010" icon.
»To view candidates on video, see www.olelo.org/whatson_vote_cif.htm.
The Star-Advertiser endorsements in this area show favor to those showing strong responsiveness on local issues and engagement in more general concerns as well.

» Senate District 8 (Kahala-Hawaii Kai): Republican Sam Slom, a strong advocate for small business from his position as president of Smart Business Hawaii, merits a fifth term. He calls for cutting taxes, maintaining that increasing business investment and jobs is the way to create more state revenue. His Democratic opponent is political novice Larry Price, a technology consultant who should not be mistaken for the radio commentator of the same name.

» Senate District 24 (Kaneohe-Kailua): Involved in public affairs at a young age, Democrat Jill Tokuda should be elected to her second term. Tokuda, who chairs the Higher Education Committee and is majority whip, was an aide to former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. She is employed as community relations director for a metal recycler. Republican Tracy Bean, a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant who finished third in last year's City Council special election, points to her activities as pastor of the New Beginnings Christian Fellowship as her main experience in helping people.

» Senate District 25 (Lanikai-Waimanalo-Hawaii Kai): Among the most impressive new faces on Hawaii's political stage is Republican Virginia Enos, a small-business owner seeking the seat vacated by retired Republican Fred Hemmings. Enos is co-founder of the nation's first off-shore aquaculture operation after having been a merchant marine chief officer. Enos faces Democrat Pohai Ryan, who was defeated in last year's City Council special election and is Sen. Brickwood Galuteria's legislative office manager.

» House District 18 (Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina): Democrat Mark Hashem and Republican Chris Baron are both attractive candidates vying for the seat Lyla Berg left to run for lieutenant governor. But Baron gets our endorsement for his deeper government experience: three terms on the Kuliouou-Kalani Iki Neighborhood Board and working on the staffs of Sen. Sam Slom and Rep. Gene Ward. Baron also served as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, an Asian affairs intelligence analyst at the Pentagon, an international affairs specialist at the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and a renewable energy policy planner at the Hawaii State Energy Office.

» House District 48 (Heeia-Kaneohe): Ken Ito, the incumbent since 1994, often flies below the radar but does keep tabs on his district's needs. He gets our nod, but the Republican newcomer, Mo Radke, a retired Navy master chief, shows potential with some new ideas and energy; if he invests a little more time in Kaneohe civic life, he could be a contender. Ito, as chairman of the Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee, lately has been most involved in opposing the Hawaiian Memorial Park expansion plan; he networks well with the rest of the Windward caucus.

» House District 49 (Maunawili-Kaneohe): Democratic incumbent Pono Chong should be returned to the Capitol for the fourth term he seeks. Chong, with broader professional and community experience than Republican challenger Joseph Aiona, has worked diligently on the Kawainui Marsh restoration. Mindful of state finances, Chong pushed for timely tax refunds and helped head off an unemployment fund shortfall.

» House District 51 (Lanikai-Waimanalo): Democratic incumbent Chris Lee deserves a second term. Republican Maka Wolfgramm, a political science senior at the University of Hawaii, needs more community experience before he can mount a credible challenge to Lee, who has shown close engagement with community groups on issues of local concern. Lee also has pushed successfully on statewide fronts, opposing a provision to allow companies with state contracts to make campaign donations.

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