Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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11 vying for Hawaii's second highest post


Associated Press


Eleven candidates want to be Hawaii's lieutenant governor, a post that most political observers agree has few responsibilities and almost no power.

So why would so many men and women spend so much of other people's donated money, kiss babies all over the state, and expend political capital for a job that former Gov. and Lt. Gov. Ben Cayetano called "the most frustrating period of my nearly three decades in Hawaii politics?"

"I think most people want it as a way of becoming governor," former University of Hawaii history professor Dan Boylan said.

Three previous Hawaii lieutenant governors have been elevated to the governor's office and one other eventually was elected to Congress, he said. Besides, the post boasts a $114,400 salary, he added.

On Saturday, seven Democratic and two Republican candidates will vie for their party's nomination. The victors, plus one independent candidate and a lone Free Energy Party contender, will meet in the Nov. 2 general election.

On the Democratic side, six of the candidates are fairly well known in party circles. They are:

— Rep. Lyla Berg — Elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004 from the Kahala area, Berg has long been involved in education as a legislator, teacher and principal. The 59-year-old says education should be the top priority of the next administration and hopes that as lieutenant governor, she will be the new governor's liaison with the state Department of Education.

— Robert Bunda — Bunda has been a state legislator since 1983, first in the House and since 1994, in the Senate. He resigned to run for lieutenant governor. Bunda, 63, has highlighted his long experience, including a five-year stint as Senate president. That experience, he contends, will help him forge compromises among disparate interests.

— Steve Hirakami — The one Democrat who is not well-known, Hirakami is the longtime principal of a Big Island charter school, in Pahoa. The 64-year-old backs more financial support for charter schools, which he says have experienced severe cuts in per pupil allocations from the state. He also points out that he accepts no political contributions.

— Gary Hooser — The former state senator from Kauai has partly focused his campaign on allowing same-gender couples to establish civil unions, the subject of a controversial and unsuccessful bill he championed earlier this year. Hooser, 56, also has highlighted energy independence and education. Like Bunda, Hooser resigned to run for lieutenant governor.

— Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu — A House member from the Waipahu area since 2002, Karamatsu says he wants to improve the state's economy, see that more food is grown and energy is produced in Hawaii, and reduce violent crimes. Karamatsu, 35, has served in a number of state House posts, most recently as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

— Sen. Norman Sakamoto — Elected in 1996 from the Kalihi, Salt Lake and Pearl Ridge neighborhoods, the 63-year-old Sakamoto is chairman of the Senate Education and Housing Committee. He's also a licensed general contractor and owner of his own business. In contrast to Hooser, Sakamoto has been an opponent of civil unions.

— Brian Schatz — A former state legislator, Schatz is probably more widely known for his early support of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and his chairmanship of the state Democratic Party two years ago. The 37-year-old from Honolulu says he wants to create an office dedicated to bringing more federal dollars to Hawaii.

There are two candidates seeking the Republican nomination:

— Rep. Lynn Finnegan — With eight years as a legislator, the last five as the GOP leader in the state House, Finnegan says she has the experience to be the state's No. 2 executive. The 39-year-old Aiea resident also contends the state would be better off with Republicans in the state's two top posts, since Democrats are expected to continue controlling the Legislature.

— Adrienne King — A Honolulu lawyer for 30 years, King says her most important goal is to seek a management and fiscal audit of the state Department of Education. She also wants to reduce taxes and regulation, eliminate duplicative government services and pursue renewable energy. She is 62 years old.

The sole Free Energy Party candidate is Deborah Spence. A Hilo resident, Spence is pushing for recognition and revival of hemp. On her website, she says hemp is the "most utilitarian plant" on earth, and if it were legal for biofuel and cellulose, "there would be no need to drill for oil." She did not respond to an e-mail asking her age.

The only independent candidate is Leonard Kama of Kapolei. Kama, 67, says he is mainly interested in finding solutions to homelessness in Hawaii and in education policy. A retired deck hand and security guard, Kama says he decided to be file as an independent because he is "tired of the parties' bull."

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