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Thielen challenges Hemmings’ return to Senate

By Michael Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 12:05 p.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012

After a two-year retirement, veteran Republican lawmaker Fred Hemmings says he is eager to re-enter the political arena and re-establish himself as a “common-sense guy” unafraid to take on the state’s dominant political party.

But to reclaim the Senate District 25 seat he left in 2010, Hemmings will have to prevail against a Demo­cratic challenger, Laura Thielen, who raised eyebrows during the summer with her own willingness to defy her party leadership.

While Hemmings ran unopposed on the Republican ballot in the primary election, Thielen had to overcome first the objections of the local Demo­cratic Party — which argued that she was ineligible to run as a Demo­crat because she had not been a member in good standing for the six months required by party rules — and then incumbent Sen. Pohai Ryan in the primary.

Thielen, daughter of Republican state Rep. Cynthia Thielen and former director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources under the Lingle administration, asserted that the party’s rules violate Hawaii law, which she said “allows primary voters, not the party, to determine who should represent the party in the general election.”

Ultimately, the party opted not to challenge Thielen in court nor expel her from the party, and Thielen went on to handily defeat Ryan in the primary.

Thielen said she is motivated by what she sees as legislative shortsightedness in loosening regulations on development — a trend that has immediate implications for a district that encompasses Kailua, Mau­na­wili, Enchanted Lake, Wai­ma­nalo, Hawaii Kai and Portlock.

Thielen noted how the proliferation of tourist-related businesses in Kailua has disrupted community life and how Hawaii Kai “has been developed to the gills.”

“We need to take a long-term perspective for the economy and long-term growth,” Thielen said. “We can’t just be all about ‘no,’ but we do have to find a way to deal with these land-use issues.”

And while she emphasized the importance of new developments being properly vetted through existing land-use procedures and regulations, Thielen, owner of Lili­noe Orchard in Wai­ma­nalo, said she also favors eliminating some of the unnecessary red tape that hinders prospective farmers from using agricultural land in Wai­ma­nalo.

Thielen said the state also needs to plan for the imminent influx of tourism and investment from China, Taiwan and Korea, the implications of which have not been felt in Hawaii since the Japa­nese bubble of the 1980s.

Hemmings said such concerns are nothing new to him, noting his own efforts to preserve residential neighborhoods in Kailua as a state representative from 1984 to 1990 and state senator from 2000 to 2010.

However, Hemmings said his most pressing concern is to help effect more fundamental changes.

“A one-party monopoly decreases competition and the quality of services,” he said. “Our community is best served with a balanced, two-party system.”

Hemmings said his years in the Legislature provided him the experience to know when and how to challenge the status quo. He pointed to his role as a driving force in judicial reform — “through sheer force of will and tenacity” — as an example of his ability to overcome majority opposition.

“There have been people in the past who have said that they’re going to be the voice of change or dissent, but they learn that you either play ball or you don’t play,” Hemmings said. “Experience is an issue here because I can hit the ground running. I won’t just be a senator for the district, but a senator for the state.”

Hemmings said he favors fundamental changes in public education.

“The Legislature throws money at public education, but with no substantial structural change, the results are the same,” he said. “We need more chartered schools, tax credits for early education opportunities, and we need to find a way to make sure that more funds in the education system actually get to the classroom.”

Thielen said she wants to see more money distributed at the school level versus at the district or state levels. She also favors more training for teachers and administrators and alternative certifications to allow those with degrees in specific disciplines, such as math and science, to teach without a teaching certificate.

Both candidates also agreed on the need to address the state’s lingering economic issues.

Thielen said her focus would be on helping small businesses survive and prosper. “Small businesses are where most people are employed and where new jobs and industries are created.”

Hemmings said he would seek to create a better overall business environment rather than focusing on developing specific new industries. “Governments create an economic environment in which a business can create itself.”

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peanutgallery wrote:
THielen is a liberal hack. SHe was a terrible DLNR rep, and now she expects the public to trust her as a Senator.. You've got to be kidding. She is not like her mom. Not even close.
on October 31,2012 | 04:39AM
tiki886 wrote:
I agree. When she says, "the state also needs to "plan" for the imminent influx of tourism and investment from China, Taiwan and Korea,..." she's talking about restrictions, not free market enterprise.
on October 31,2012 | 05:16AM
false wrote:
"Free market enterprise"? What about China, Taiwan or Korea corporations suggests to you their behavior conforms to "free market enterprise"? The major Chinese investments either have a direct government involvement or are run by cronies very close to top government and party officials. The Taiwan and South Korean economies are only slightly less controlled by their governments.

The Chinese economic structure has given rise to a very rich elite and a very large professional/managerial class. That wealth, like wealth from all over the world, is starting to look at Hawaii as a place to buy, as well as a tourist destination. If businesses aligned with the Chinese government buy up a lot of the hotels, golf courses, fly in the passengers on Chinese airlines, shuttle them around on Chinese owned tour buses and repatriate all the profits back to China, what benefit will Hawaii residents get from this massive influx?

Your "free market" rhetoric is not helpful in preparing for the changes coming down on Hawaii. But then, we have had a lot of people who feel no pain as Hawaii is gobbled up by "foreign fish." It has gone on for over a century. I am glad at least one politician is saying we must think in advance how to wrest the greatest benefits for Hawaii's people and guard against the problems. Of course, YMMV.

on October 31,2012 | 08:56AM
Larry01 wrote:
She's liberal on some issues, but definitely not most. She was pretty loyal to the Lingle administration, if you might recall.
on October 31,2012 | 08:32AM
false wrote:

When you say she was a DLNR "rep," it suggests you are unfamiliar with the DLNR and not in a position to say anything useful on the subject. She was the Director of DLNR. What were the issues at DLNR you think she mismanaged? Which problems pre-existed her tenure and which were the result of decisions made above her, from the Governor and through the interference of Lingle's chief of staff, Bob Awana? I hear crickets at your end.

She's a "liberal hack"? I know both her mother and Laura. From my conversations with them, I think they are BOTH about as liberal and both very independent from the control of their political parties. So not sure what you mean by "hack." A "hack" is someone who just does as they are told, just "follows orders." Since she joined the Democratic Party, she certainly hasn't "followed orders." The only way your complaint makes ANY sense is if you are complaining she IS NOT a "conservative hack."

on October 31,2012 | 08:43AM
nonpolitic wrote:
Technically, you're both not correct on your nomenclature. She served as the chairperson of the board of land and natural resources. The department of land and natural resources has no "director" position. With regard to Laura being liberal, I do not agree either. I witnessed some of her vitriolic anti-democrat rants issued at republican party forums and her tenor was anything but "liberal".
on October 31,2012 | 08:58AM
false wrote:
OK. The "Chairman" title comes from the Board. But the Chair of the DLNR is functionally the same as the "director" of the other state departments. A "rep" is functionally different than a director. And Thielen's role was, functionally, that of a director. As is Bill Aila's.
on October 31,2012 | 09:06AM
nonpolitic wrote:
on October 31,2012 | 09:54AM
allie wrote:
love your vocabulary prowess!
on October 31,2012 | 10:03AM
allie wrote:
I like laura..she is bright, classy and in charge. I waive a sign for mazie in Manoa/.Kaimuki this weekend and go to Hawaii Kai for Laura after that. Hemmings has a troubled past with his wife's legal problems. He was a surfer boy from Punahou in his youth I am told. What makes him credible today?
on October 31,2012 | 10:02AM
turbolink wrote:
Allie, you must have a book on all the candidates you don't like and their "troubled pasts." You know, your insinuendos without fact to back them up are pretty careless.
on October 31,2012 | 05:33PM
SomebodyElse wrote:
Go turbo go. Just remember the old adage, "It's better to keep one's mouth close and have people assume you don't know what you're talking about than to open your mouth and reveal all doubt."
on October 31,2012 | 10:04PM
McCully wrote:
Voters should not trust Thielen. Her democractic party doesn't support her so why should the voters.
on October 31,2012 | 07:19AM
Macadamiamac wrote:
I'd cast a jaundiced eye at the Hawaii Democratic party too, they're the ones who ignored their own rules when trying to bar Thielen from running under their flag.
on October 31,2012 | 08:17AM
Larry01 wrote:
Ignorned their own rules? I thought they were trying to enforce them.
on October 31,2012 | 08:32AM
false wrote:
Is McCully even a Democrat? If so, what motivates him to attack Thielen unless it is to help Fred? Does that make him a trustworthy Democrat?

If, on the other hand, McCully is a Republican, why does he pretend the Democrats who persecuted Thielen were operating in good faith or applying their rules fairly? Anyone who followed the issue in the press knows the Party was very divided and the process was tainted by conflicts of interest. They even changed their own rules to prevent another occurrence of this incident.

So McCully's argument is untrustworthy whether he is a Democrat or a Republican. Why should a voter trust McCully's deceptive arguments?

on October 31,2012 | 09:02AM
walaau808 wrote:
Does McCully even live in the district?
on October 31,2012 | 10:30AM
silvangold wrote:
VOTE FOR FRED. Thielen is NOT a trusted person!
on October 31,2012 | 07:35AM
false wrote:
Fred has nothing to add to the conversation. Anyone who has been watching the Legislature when Fred was there recognizes the sad truth that Fred is unable to offer useful ideas beyond boilerplate claptrap he picks up from listening to Fox News.

Hawaii WOULD benefit from a healthy two-party system. But that requires the Republican Party to provide intelligent, creative and energetic thinkers and doers. Not just somebody who grumbles, like Fred or the sloganeers of the Tea Party and religious right.

If the desire is to have thoughtful debate among legislators, Laura Thielen has much more to offer than Fred. She has the brains and the independence to offer an alternative voice in the senate to the pro-development machine. When the senate voted to create a Public Lands Development Corporation and exempt it from almost all state and county laws, only one senator, Les Ihara, voted against it. The rest laid down in response to the push led by Donovan Delacruz and Malama Solomon. Thielen is very familiar with the issues in public lands management and conservation. And she has demonstrated her willingness to stand up to pressures to conform. She would provide an effective counterpoint to Delacruz and Solomon in the senate.

on October 31,2012 | 08:33AM
nonpolitic wrote:
While I favor neither choice in this particular race, I do agree with the majority of your assessment. Astute observation. Although, if Ms. Thielen is elected as a democrat, I wonder how much the rest of the senate democrats will be able to trust her to not leak information to the republicans (her mother) in the house.
on October 31,2012 | 09:04AM
false wrote:
The relationship between a Senator Thielen (D) and a Rep. Thielen (R) poses unique challenges to both parties. Cynthia Thielen is openly campaigning for her daughter, to the frustration of the GOP leadership. And Al Lewis, a pillar of the Waimanalo community and an officer of the Democratic Party, has told Democratic chair Dante Carpenter and Oahu Chair Tony Gill "too bad" when the Dem leaders did not want party officers to support Thielen. And the Democratic Coordinated Campaign canvassing passed out Thielen literature alongside that of the other Dem candidates.

It is up to the Senate President and the Senate Democratic Caucus who is allowed to caucus with them. Except for Pohai Ryan, who sent mixed signals, I am unaware of any Democratic senator who supported the foolish efforts of the Dem Party leaders to block Thielen from running. I personally heard from a LOT of Democratic "elects" who thought the Party was acting like Keystone Kops.

on October 31,2012 | 10:23AM
nonpolitic wrote:
Ha ha ha! Very interesting! Although I must say that in my view, the relationship between the Democratic Party and democrat elected officials has always been strained at best. As for allowing Laura Thielen to caucus with the rest of the senate democrats, I don't think that they have ever prohibited a democrat senator from sitting in caucus . . . at least not in the last 35 years or so.
on October 31,2012 | 01:47PM
allie wrote:
true...I saw Hemmings on the Island Issues and was not impressed. He seems like a nice guy to have pizza and a beer with but not more
on October 31,2012 | 10:03AM
bikemom wrote:
Did anyone else notice the HUGE error on the map? It should be Kalanianaole Hwy., not Kamehameha.
on October 31,2012 | 10:15AM
SomebodyElse wrote:
"'through sheer force of will and tenacity' — as an example of his ability to overcome majority opposition." So says Fred, der Übermann. I'll take the candidate who will entertain ideas from the opposition and propose alternatives. The candidate who refuses to see or hear the alternative view is the one who needs to step down. Hemmings has great aloha for Hawaii, but needs to get past his ego to be effective, or at least get my vote.
on October 31,2012 | 10:10PM
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