Two Windward-raised mothers of two are vying for the seat in state Senate District 24, which straddles the distinctly different communities of Kailua and Kaneohe.
The issues facing their residents are as different as the two candidates, incumbent Democrat Jill Tokuda and Republican challenger Tracy Nakano Bean.
Tokuda, 34, and Bean, 47, both attended Castle High School and are each raising two young children — boys for Tokuda, girls for Bean.
But they differ on critical issues such as their stances on the vetoed civil unions bill. Tokuda supported it; Bean opposed it.
Tokuda voted for HB444, the civil unions bill. She said the bill was not about redefining marriage, but would have been "an alternative to marriage that would treat same-sex couples and heterosexual couples equally. For me, it is about equal rights and responsibilities under the law."
Bean said she would have voted against HB444, noting that the bill gave government the power to define "spouse" and "family." She said, "I would vote no because whenever government defines things, it doesn’t add rights, it takes them away."
Kailua residents worry about the effect of a new Whole Foods store and a Target moving into the space now occupied by Don Quijote, along with the future of Kawainui Marsh and traffic on Kamehameha Highway from a proposed expansion of Hawaii Pacific University’s Windward campus, said Chuck Prentiss, chairman of the Kailua Neighborhood Board.
Kaneohe residents also share concerns about how HPU’s plans will affect Kamehameha Highway traffic. They also worry about chronic homelessness, escapees from the State Hospital and drivers speeding through residential neighborhoods to avoid congestion on Kamehameha and Kahekili highways, said John Flanigan, a member of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board.
Bean, a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant and pastor at New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, believes that government can help both Kailua and Kaneohe by letting the free-market economy thrive.
"I am pro-business, principally," Bean said. "My perspective would be hands-off in terms of business. Leave the economy alone. Don’t interfere with it. We want the economy to have the least amount of interference, specifically government interference. The reason I’m running is because I have not necessarily felt that I’ve been represented. My concern is that we represent all people, regardless of our personal positions."
But Bean also shares the concerns of some Kailua small businesses worried about Whole Foods and Target moving into an already congested business area.
"A lot of small, established cottage industries make Kailua that special place," Bean said. "There’s a lot of concern about how a big-box business would affect that specific place. I want to preserve that small-town, country character."
While issues such as zoning and traffic around the two new stores primarily rest with city officials, Bean sees her role as a state senator to bring together all of the key players "and ensure there is communication," she said.
Tokuda, director of community relations for Reynolds Recycling, prides herself on her attendance at Kailua and Kaneohe neighborhood board meetings and holds town hall meetings at Windward Community College.
As a state senator, Tokuda said she finds as much value helping constituents with their individual concerns as in writing legislation.
"I don’t want to arbitrarily toss laws onto the books," she said. "If people can reach agreement on their own, that’s the best way to do it."
Tokuda regularly works with City Council members and city departments on city issues that affect people in the 24th Senate district — ranging from road repairs to pet owners who do not clean up after their dogs.
With competing interests debating whether the future of Kawainui Marsh will include structures and visitor centers, Tokuda found her role by sitting down with city, state and community representatives "to find the low-hanging fruit — areas that everyone can agree on," she said.
Tokuda said residents in both communities "really just want to know that you’re looking out for them, that you care about their well-being and their families and that you’re an advocate for them."