Sunday, October 4, 2015         

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Hawaii now has most one-sided state legislature in the country

By Mark Niesse

Associated Press


Hawaii's overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature is now the nation's most one-sided, although Republicans managed to pick up one seat.

With 88 percent of legislative seats held by Democrats, Hawaii passed Rhode Island as the nation's most politically monolithic state, according to an Associated Press analysis of National Conference of State Legislatures' figures.

Democrats will control all but nine seats in Hawaii's 76-member Legislature following Tuesday's election. Republicans gained eight seats in Rhode Island to give it the second-most lopsided House and Senate, with 84 percent Democratic control.

The addition of just one Republican to the Hawaii Legislature fell far short of the Republican Party's hopes in a year in which 10 races had no incumbent and the party had targeted about 15 seats.

"Republican voters didn't turn out," said Dylan Nonaka, executive director for the Hawaii Republican Party. "We thought a lot of races should have been much closer."

Republicans gained two seats in the Hawaii House but lost a seat in the Senate, shrinking their number in that chamber to one.

Of the 10 seats without an incumbent, Republicans won two.

"A lot of the Democratic candidates just outhustled the Republican candidates," said Speaker of the House Calvin Say, D-St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise.

In the House, former Maui police captain and Republican George Fontaine defeated incumbent Joe Bertram. Bertram, D-Makena-Kihei, was criticized for appearing in court last year to defend a friend convicted of Internet enticement of a minor.

The other Republican elected to the House was Gil Riviere, a mortgage broker and Oahu North Shore Neighborhood Board member, who won an open seat vacated by Vice Speaker of the House Michael Magaoay. Magaoay, D-Schofield-Kahuku, unsuccessfully ran for state Senate.

"The Republican Party needs to get more candidates who are more active in the community," Riviere said. "We've got to have more people step up with more of a track record, but there are a lot of Democrats in the state."

Besides Riviere, the other Republican to win an open seat was Aaron Johanson, who replaces Republican Lynn Finnegan. Finnegan, R-Mapunapuna-Foster Village, unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor.

In the Senate, former Democratic Party Executive Director Pohai Ryan won a race to replace Republican Fred Hemmings. Hemmings, R-Lanikai-Waimanalo, is resigning.

Democratic Rep. Marilyn Lee was holding on to a 17-vote lead over Republican Shaun Kawakami, a former youth pastor.

"We're still essentially a blue state," said Lee, D-Mililani-Mililani Mauka. "The history of the labor unions, and also the state's diversity and the years and years that many different ethnic groups have struggled to be recognized as equal, that plays a role."

Because Democrat Neil Abercrombie won the governor's race, the Democratic Legislature will have an easier time passing new laws than they did over the last eight years, when Republican Gov. Linda Lingle kept her veto pen ready.

Republicans will hold eight out of 51 House seats and one out of 25 Senate seats when the Legislature convenes in January.


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