Several Democratic leaders are competing against either each other or former lawmakers
POSTED: 8:11 p.m. HST, Jun 22, 2012
State Sen. Carol Fukunaga has served in the Senate for two decades. State Sen. Brian Taniguchi has served for 18 years. But redrawn political boundaries after the census have placed the veteran senators into the same Manoa area district, so one of them will not make it past the August primary.
Democrats will have to choose between Fukunaga, the chairwoman of the Senate Economic Development and Technology Committee who has become a leader in new media, and Taniguchi, a former chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee who has been considered for the Senate presidency.
"I think it's going to be a hard choice. It's going to be one of these tossup races," Taniguchi said Tuesday, the deadline to file for elected office this year.
"It's never easy to run against a colleague you've respected and worked with over the years," Fukunaga said in a statement. "However, competition is a time-honored tenet of our democratic process — it's a healthy way to improve the quality of dialogue between voters and candidates."
The primary clash is one of three pitting Democratic incumbents against each other in newly drawn Senate and House districts.
House Majority Leader Pono Chong and state Rep. Jessica Wooley will face each other in a Kaneohe area district, while state Rep. Heather Giugni — appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie this year to fill a vacancy — and state Rep. K. Mark Takai will compete in an Aiea area district. Both primary campaigns have leadership implications in the House. Chong is a top lieutenant to House Speaker Calvin Say, while Wooley and Takai are part of a dissident faction that has sought to replace Say for several years.
Dissidents dodged a head-to-head duel when state Rep. Scott Saiki, one of the faction's leaders, chose to move to and run in an open Pawaa area district instead of against state Rep. Scott Nishimoto, a fellow dissident. Saiki will have to contend with Lei Ahu Isa, a former lawmaker and state school board member, in the primary.
Several other primary campaigns involve former lawmakers who want to return to the Legislature at the expense of incumbents.
On Hawaii island, state Sen. Malama Solomon, appointed by Abercrombie in 2010 to fill a vacancy, faces a challenge from Lorraine Inouye, a former senator and Hawaii island mayor. In the Pearl City region, state Sen. Clarence Nishihara will be up against former state Rep. Alex Sonson. In Mililani, state Sen. Michelle Kidani will face former state Rep. Michael Magaoay.
In a Windward campaign that has already divided Democrats, state Sen. Pohai Ryan will be up against Laura Thielen, a former director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican. State Democrats are still reviewing whether to go to court to block Thielen's candidacy, since the party has ruled that she is not eligible to run as a Democrat because she has not been a party member for at least six months.
Dante Carpenter, the party's chairman, said Tuesday that the party will likely make an announcement on Thielen later this week.
On Hawaii island, state Sen. Gilbert Kahele, who was appointed by Abercrombie last year to fill a vacancy, will face Hawaii County Councilman Donald Ikeda in the primary.
Honolulu City Councilman Romy Cachola, who is barred by term limits from seeking another term on the Council, is running for the House in a Kalihi area district. He is also a former House member.
Former state Sen. Eloise Tungpalan will face Gregg Takayama, a former television reporter, in a Pearl City area House district. Former state Rep. Romeo Mindo is among several Democrats seeking an Ewa Beach House seat.
Most of the significant primary contests for the House and Senate involve Democrats, who have a 43-to-8 majority in the House and a 24-to-1 hold on the Senate.
Former Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings hopes to reclaim his old Windward Senate seat — now held by Ryan — in the November general election. Former GOP state Rep. Colleen Meyer has targeted state Sen. Clayton Hee in a North Shore area district.
Two former state senators, meanwhile, are eying Council seats.
Ron Menor, who lost re-election to the Senate in 2008 after a drunken-driving incident, will run for an open Central Oahu seat on the Honolulu City Council.
Gary Hooser, director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, who lost a campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010, will run for the Kauai County Council.