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Thielen beats Ryan to face Hemmings in East Oahu Senate race

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 4:34 p.m. HST, Oct 23, 2012

Laura Thielen, newcomer to the Democratic Party, defeated state Sen. Pohai Ryan for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat representing Hawaii Kai, Waimanalo and Kailua.

In another high-profile race pitting two longtime Democratic legislators against each other, Sen. Brian Taniguchi defeated Sen. Carol Fukunaga for the 11th district covering Makiki, Tantalus and Manoa.

Fukunaga and Taniguchi found themselves in the same Senate district as a result of reapportionment.

Thielen, daughter of Republican state Rep. Cynthia Thielen and the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources for former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s, sought the nomination despite Democratic Party’s determination that she should not run as a Democrat because she was not a member of good standing for six months.

The party, however, did not file a legal challenge to block her.

In 2010, Ryan won the Senate seat of Republican Fred Hemmings who decided not to run for reelection after serving 10 years in the Senate.

Thielen will face Hemmings, who wants his seat back and is the only candidate in the Republican primary.

On the Big Island, two Democratic senators who were appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie faced challenges for the party’s nomination.

Sen. Gilbert Kahele was appointed in January last year to replace Russell Kokubun who was named Department of Agriculture director. He defeated Hawaii County Council member Donald Ikeda in the Senate 1rst district covering Hilo.

The winner will be elected to the Senate because there are no other candidates.

Sen. Malama Solomon was named in 2010 to replace Dwight Takamine, who became director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Late Saturday night, she held a slim lead over Lorraine Inouye, former Big Island County Council member, former Big Island mayor and former state senator, for the 4th district covering Kaupulehu, Waimea and North Hilo.

Also on the Big Island, Russell Ruderman, owner of Island Naturals Markets, defeated state Rep. Bob Herkes and two other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2nd district covering Puna.

On Maui, Democratic state Sen. J. Kalani English defeated Barbara Halliniak, a self-employed bookkeeper, for the 7th district (Molokai, Lanai, East Maui).

In other races, three Oahu Democratic senators won their races.

The three are Sen.Michelle Kidani in the 18th district (Mililani, Waikele, Kunia); Sen. Clarence Nishihara  in the 17th district (Waipahu, Pearl City), and Sen. Will Espero in the 19th district (Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point).

Kahele, Nishihara and Espero will retain their seats because they don’t face any challengers in the general election.

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