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Growth area needs strong voices

LAST UPDATED: 8:26 p.m. HST, Oct 29, 2010

Once farmland, barren hillsides and plantation towns, these Leeward legislative districts today encompass a fast-developing hub of Oahu. Land issues loom large here, as do the related challenges of sprawling traffic, livability, community pride and other complexities that come with suburban growth.


Today is the fifth 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, Editorials section. For more on all candidates and the election, click on the website's "VOTE 2010" icon.
>>To view candidates on video, see
» Senate District 19 (Kapolei-Makakilo-Waikele): Republican-turned-Democrat Mike Gabbard fought off a challenge from the left in the primary election and deserves to continue. Gabbard was elected to the Senate as a Republican in 2006 after serving in the City Council for four years. A social conservative who has long been Hawaii's leading opponent of gay marriage, Gabbard switched to the Democratic Party in 2007 to partake of the power of the Senate's supermajority; he voted against the civil unions bill while finding agreement with his present party-mates on other issues. Gabbard's opponent is political newcomer Aaron Bonar, a Kapolei businessman, also a social conservative.

» District 37 (Mililani-Waipio Gentry): Republican Beth Fukumoto, office manager for Republican Rep. Gene Ward, is a newcomer and strong challenger to Democratic incumbent Ryan Yamane, but our nod goes to Yamane, a social worker elected in 2004 who chairs the Health Committee and is assistant majority floor leader. The former Waipahu Neighborhood Board member remains active in various community organizations, and like his opponent, says the issue of civil unions should be put to a public vote.

» District 38 (Mililani-Mililani Mauka-Waipio Acres): Democratic incumbent Marilyn Lee faces Republican Shaun Kawakami, a former youth pastor who lacks significant political or business experience. Lee is a registered nurse who has been active in the Mililani community since moving there in 1981. She served on its neighborhood board, including four years as chairwoman, and has been in the House since 1996, currently as Finance vice chairwoman and majority whip. Her votes on taxes and regulations put her firmly in the liberal camp -- stances that could stand tempering in tight times -- but her record of service, in lieu of stronger opposition, makes her our choice.

» District 39 (Wahiawa-Whitmore Village-Poamoho): House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro gets our endorsement for several reasons, not least of which has been his thoughtful support of same-sex civil unions. A former management analyst and deputy prosecutor for the city, the Democratic incumbent seems to understand that the issue likely will be settled in the courts, rather than according to public whim. On economic issues, Oshiro needs to be more responsive to business and taxpayers, but his Republican opponent, small businessman Sam Curtis, too loudly trumpets his "Christian political values" to make us feel comfortable about him as an alternative.

» House District 40 (Makakilo-Kapolei-Royal Kunia): Democrat Sharon Har is a land-use lawyer well-suited to represent an area burgeoning in housing development. Elected in 2006, Har has been effective in dealing with matters affecting the Second City and other issues aligned with her constituents. In the case of civil unions, she says almost apologetically that her "no" vote meant adhering to what she perceived as the majority opinion "instead of injecting my own personal views." Har faces first-time Republican candidate Marissa Capelouto, a shipping-transportation businesswoman.

» House District 41 (Waipahu-Village Park-Waikele): This open seat vacated by Democrat Jon Riki Karamatsu's unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor has two attractive candidates -- but we pick Republican Carl Wong, a retired Honolulu police major and fraud investigator, for his supervisory and managerial experience. Wong, who has a police science/psychology degree, also is active on the Village Park Community Association board and is a football coach. This area's important issues will involve land-use projects such as Hoopili and Koa Ridge, combined with rail transit that will run through the district. Wong would be a needed, frank voice in the discussions. Democrat Ty Cullen, program coordinator for Hale Kipa, a nonprofit that aids high-risk youths, is also an engaged member of his community.

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