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Hawaii News

4 making initial run at elective office

The four candidates for the 32nd state House District (Waimalu, Aliamanu and the airport) are each making their first run at elected office, but all have a background of public service.

Lei Sharsh, Randy Swindell and Danny Villaruz are Democrats vying to fill the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Lynn Finnegan, who is running for lieutenant governor.

The winner of the Sept. 18 primary will face Republican Aaron Johanson, a former aide to Finnegan.

Sharsh has worked as a behavioral health specialist for the state Department of Education. Her background is in counseling and psychology, which she says would help her work well with others in the Legislature and the community.

She has also been a therapist for the Institute for Family Enrichment LLC, and a therapeutic aide at Alakai Ne Keiki.

"It’s really about getting along with people you may not like or agree with, how you can still be professional or communicate on a daily basis," Sharsh said. "If I’m elected, I will know how to deal with the daily grind of being in that position."

Traffic problems, including the often-asked-for widening of Salt Lake Boulevard, and reducing crime in the area would be among her top priorities. She also wants to ensure the rail transit system is built of rust-resistant materials. "I don’t want the same thing that happened to Aloha Stadium," she said.

Swindell, a Navy veteran, is the port representative for the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots. He has held various union positions, including president of the Hawaii Ports Maritime Council.

He said he has also heard concerns about traffic on Salt Lake Boulevard, and said if the city does not widen the road, the rail should instead pass through there.

Swindell said he is against any increase in general excise taxes and would rather look at ways to build up the economy.

"If you can grow the economy, you don’t have to ask for tax increases," he said. "It’ll happen on its own. We have a lot of pensioners in this district."

He said he favors an elected school board, though he might favor a chairman appointed by the governor.

Villaruz is senior tax auditor for the state Department of Taxation. He has been a volunteer at the Hawaii Foodbank as well as with educational and medical missions to the Philippines in 2005, 2007 and 2008.

He will seek to build partnerships with military bases to create jobs. He also hopes to foster a volunteering spirit within his community.

Villaruz said he believes his background in crunching numbers will be an asset in analyzing and balancing the state budget.

"We do analyze state tax returns and financial statements," he said. "There are similarities to my work as far as budgeting is concerned, looking at where we can best allocate the money."

Education tops Johanson’s priorities, "particularly because this district covers three school complexes," he said. He favors an appointed school board, which he said would hold government accountable.

He opposes increases to the general excise tax, saying government needs to live within its budget. "I’m of the school of thought, the more you want to encourage something, the more you incentivize it."


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