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GOP poised to gain 2 legislative seats

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 2:45 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2010

Hawaii Republicans were poised last night to see a net gain of two seats in the state Legislature, picking up three seats in the House but losing one in the Senate.

One notable gain could come in South Maui's 11th House District, where Republican George Fontaine, an energy consultant and former Maui police captain, held a lead of less than 200 votes over Democratic Rep. Joe Bertram.

A Republican newcomer, 25-year-old former youth pastor Shaun Kawakami, held a 63-vote lead over incumbent Marilyn Lee, who has held the seat in District 38 (Mililani-Mililani Mauka) since 1996.

In the 46th House District (Schofield-Kahuku), Republican Gil Riviere had a sizable lead over Larry Sagaysay for the seat once held by Democrat Michael Magaoay, who ran for state Senate.

If the results hold, the GOP would gain three House seats but still be outnumbered by Democrats, 42-9.

In the Senate, Republicans were trailing in the race for the seat held by retiring Sen. Fred Hemmings, leaving Sam Slom as the lone GOP senator. Democrat Pohai Ryan led Republican Virginia Enos in early returns.

"I am disappointed in several respects," Slom said. He said a Democratic monopoly is "not healthy for our economy."

"Whatever we gotta do, we will do, and the Republican voice will be heard," he said.

Bertram faced criticism last year for defending a friend convicted of Internet enticement of a minor. Bertram's remarks that the enticement statute penalized "imaginary crime" became a campaign issue.

"They painted me as the criminal rather than as a supporter of a friend," Bertram said last night, referring to campaign mailers about him. "They quoted me as saying it was a victimless crime. I never said that. Never did. There was a lot of misinformation."

Bertram said he would focus on working for nonprofits, particularly pedestrian advocacy groups. His signature issues have been promoting bike paths and greenways, as well as expanding access to medical marijuana.

Riviere was poised to win the seat vacated when Magaoay ran an unsuccessful campaign against City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz for the state Senate's 22nd District seat.

"I've worked hard for this community for the last few years," said Riviere, a mortgage banker with Mann Mortgage LLC. He also has been involved with the North Shore Neighborhood Board and the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Riviere won the Republican primary in 2008 but lost to Magaoay.

"It's been an honor. I'm very honored by the reaction that I get from people in the district," Riviere said.

Newcomer Aaron Johanson will be keeping the 32nd House District of Waimalu, Aliamanu and the airport as a Republican seat. Lynn Finnegan left the seat to run as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor with Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona.

"I think it's important for a balanced, accountable government," Johanson said of Republicans gaining two more House seats. "I hope to be one of those people ensuring there are checks and balances in the Legislature, and that we're fleshing out concerns in a thorough debate."

In District 33 (Halawa-Aiea-Pearlridge), Democratic incumbent Blake Oshiro held his lead over Republican challenger and small-businessman Sam Kong.

Oshiro said he will focus on job growth and also will reintroduce the civil unions issue in the next session.

"I will probably be talking to the rest of my colleagues, as well as open lines of communication with (Neil) Abercrombie and see what the viability of the bill would be," Oshiro said.

Dela Cruz held a large lead over Republican challenger Charles Aki last night in the Senate District 22 (North Shore-Wahiawa) race.

Dela Cruz, who was the author of the rail transit authority charter question for the city, said he hopes to extend the work he did as a Honolulu councilman for his district. Dela Cruz initially ran for mayor this year but opted to run for senator.

He said he will lobby for infrastructure funding in transportation, the Haleiwa boat harbor and emergency sirens in the area.

"My agenda is going to be about agriculture, environment and economic development," he said. "That all relates to my district."

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