Incumbents rarely lose bids for re-election in Hawaii politics. So open seats draw great interest among hopeful politicians.
Such is the case for the 31st state House District (Moanalua Valley-Moanalua-Salt Lake), where current officeholder Democrat Glenn Wakai is running for a vacant seat in the state Senate in the upcoming elections.
Four Democrats are running in next month’s primary elections for the right to face the lone Republican candidate in the November general election.
Recent William S. Richardson School of Law graduate Linda Ichiyama appears to have gotten the jump on her opponents, having raised $36,448 for her campaign by the end of June, more than double all the money raised by her competitors.
Ichiyama, 24, cut her teeth in Hawaii politics as a teenager when she served as the student member of the state Board of Education while attending Moanalua High School. In this past state legislative session, she worked as a legislative aide and community liaison for Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha).
The lifelong Salt Lake resident says public safety is the biggest problem facing residents in the district. She also said she would have voted in favor of the civil unions bill vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle.
Sharon Lum Ho has worked the past six years as committee clerk for the state Senate Transportation, International and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and Chairman J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai). She said her legislative experience has prepared her for being a lawmaker and would have voted in favor of the civil unions bill.
Lum Ho, 60, says unemployment is the biggest problem facing her district. She favors the city’s rail project to spur construction and put people to work.
Rocky Rockwell is the only Democratic candidate in the race to have previously run for public office. Rockwell, 34, ran unsuccessfully for the City Council seat vacancy created by the death last year of Duke Bainum.
He says his years of service in the Navy and Naval Reserve and sales and customer service jobs give him the experience necessary for the job as a state representative. His current job is senior information systems analyst for Lockheed Martin.
Rockwell says the biggest problem facing his district is quality of life and the many issues affecting it, including parking, roads, crime and graffiti. He says he supports civil unions but says marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Ryan Toyomura, 26, says that in his recent employment as chief community liaison for City Councilman Romy Cachola, he has already done part of what a state representative should do: Listen to the community and work hard for its interests.
He says the biggest problem facing the district is the economic recession and the accompanying rise in crime.
Toyomura says marriage is between one man and one woman. But if elected, he said he would welcome the opportunity to find a solution to the issue of rights and benefits for same-sex couples.
Garner Shimizu, the only Republican in the race, is more emphatic, saying he is against the civil unions bill. He said improving current beneficiary laws is the way to meet the needs of nontraditional couples and families.
Shimizu, 51, is vice president of Master Sheet Metal Inc. He says his 25 years working as a manager for the small business and his education give him the experience needed to bring a fresh, practical perspective to the Legislature. He also says the lack of opportunities for local businesses and independent laborers is the biggest problem facing the district.