A pair of challengers put officeholders on their heels, spelling defeat for Rida Cabanilla and Malama Solomon
POSTED: 07:28 p.m. HST, Aug 09, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 11:47 p.m. HST, Aug 10, 2014
Voters ousted two veteran legislators in the Democratic primary, House Majority Floor Leader Rida Cabanilla and Sen. Malama Solomon.
Cabanilla took a drubbing at the hands of philosophy professor Matt LoPresti, who scooped up more than 60 percent of the vote to become the Democratic nominee for House District 41 (Ewa Beach-West Loch Estates).
"I have never worked so hard in my life for something," LoPresti said as the returns came in. "I'm doing it for my kids and I'm doing it for the kids in Ewa who need somebody who's going to pay attention to them and get them what they deserve."
Cabanilla had come under fire for helping steer a $100,000 state grant to a charity she led, which ultimately wasn't released because the organization had failed to file tax returns for three years. She also was criticized for failing to cast a vote on the issue of gay marriage, and she was fined in November for a campaign spending violation.
LoPresti, a Hawaii Pacific University professor and former Ewa Neighborhood Board member, had secured a wide range of endorsements, from environmental groups to labor unions.
"It's really rare for a candidate of my inexperience to have that many endorsements, and it's the Sierra Club and building unions, businesses and progressive groups," said LoPresti, 40, co-founder of Kokua Renewable Energy.
He will face Libertarian Tom Berg and Republican Bryan Jeremiah in the general election.
On Hawaii island, former senator and mayor Lorraine Inouye prevailed by 15 percentage points in her rematch against Solomon in Senate District 4 (Kaupulehu-Waimea-North Hilo).
Solomon had barely fended off Inouye in the 2012 Democratic primary by 69 votes. Since then, the plainspoken Solomon had alienated some voters for helping create the Public Land Development Corp., which was abolished in 2013 before ever getting off the ground. Inouye faces Libertarian Alain Schiller in the general election.
Legislative seats left open by Democrats who made bids for higher office cleared the way for other candidates.
In the race to replace Sen. Clayton Hee, who ran for lieutenant governor, the primary action was on the Republican side. Rep. Richard Fale, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, defeated former House member Colleen Meyer in the sprawling Senate District 23, which stretches from Heeia around the North Shore to Waialua.
Fale will face off in the general election against former Rep. Gil Riviere, an environmentally oriented candidate who switched to become a Democrat.
Elsewhere on the Windward side, attorney Jarrett Keohokalole beat fellow attorney Robert Harris, former executive director of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, in House District 48 (Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe), which previously was represented by Jessica Wooley.
Keohokalole works on invasive species issues for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and is a political newcomer. He enjoyed the support of construction and labor unions while Harris had backing from environmental groups and the solar industry.
The Democratic nominee will face Republican Eldean Kukahiko, a retired police officer and senior pastor at Hope Chapel Kahaluu, along with Libertarian Kaimanu Takayama and nonpartisan candidate Kana Naipo.
The Democratic primary race for Rep. K. Mark Takai's old seat was neck-and-neck all night between florist Sam Kong and Tracy Arakaki, a longtime member of the Aiea Neighborhood Board. Kong led by one vote in results released before 9 p.m. but increased the spread to 54 votes in a tally near 11 p.m. Arnold Wong was a distant third.
Kong had run as a Republican but switched parties for this contest in House District 33 (Halawa-Aiea-Newtown). Arakaki, a television news producer, kept sign waving until the polls closed, saying, "I'm not going to take anything for granted."
The Democratic nominee will go up against Republican Robert Helsham, athletic director at Christian Academy.
Former Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana, 51, faltered in his effort to jump back into politics, falling to Rep. Justin Woodson, who was appointed to a Central Maui seat in January 2013 and was on the ballot for the first time. With no general election competition, Woodson will continue representing House District 9 (Kahului-Wailuku-Puunene).
On Kauai, Rep. James Tokioka captured a fifth term, far outpacing first-time candidate Dylan Hooser in House District 15, which covers Wailua Homesteads, Lihue and Hanamaulu.
Rep. Karen Awana, who resigned her post as House majority floor leader last year after her fourth fine for campaign finance violations, defeated Stacelynn Eli, who works at a home improvement store, in House District 43 (Kalaeloa-Ko Olina-Maili).
Awana now faces Republican Andria Tupola, a music educator who organized protests against the gay marriage special session.
Rep. Faye Hanohano had four challengers in the Democratic primary for House District 4 in lower Puna. But storm debris blocked roads and forced the closure of two precincts, preventing voters from casting ballots on Election Day. They will be mailed ballots, delaying the results of that race indefinitely.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story and a story on page A23 in Sunday's paper indicated that Matt LoPresti was a member of the Ewa Neighborhood Board, but he stepped down and is no longer on the board.