Following yesterday’s endorsement of legislative candidates from downtown Honolulu toward Diamond Head, we turn today to the urban districts from Kalihi Valley to Nuuanu. These areas generally comprise housing in older communities with more high-rise condominiums to the east, all working to contribute to an improved economy to assure comfortable, long-established metro lifestyles.
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Today is the second in a weeklong series of endorsements on state Legislature races, divided into general areas. We reviewed candidates’ backgrounds, civil rights positions, community involvement and ideas to propel the state forward. Incumbency was a factor, but not a rubber stamp. And in a toss-up between the Democrat or Republican, we favored the loyal-opposition Republican.
» Senate District 13 (Kalihi-Liliha): Suzanne Chun-Oakland has been consumed by legislative and community activities as a state representative for three terms and in the Senate since 1996. She is the Senate’s Democratic whip, helping lead legislators in progressive directions while representing Liliha and part of Kalihi. Oakland chairs the Human Services Committee, advocating Medicaid services as the safety net for those who cannot afford health insurance, and was the deserved recipient this year of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s community service award. Her Republican opponent is Judy Franklin, a self-employed minister and author.
» Senate District 14 (Kalihi Valley-Halawa): Incumbent Donna Mercado Kim, as chairwoman of the important Ways and Means Committee, has been aggressive in providing needed oversight of state government. A state representative from 1982 to 1985, Democrat Kim served as a city councilwoman from 1985 to 2000, when she was first elected to the Senate. She chaired the Tourism and Intergovernmental Affairs and Tourism committees until becoming head of Ways and Means last year. Having steered the Senate through the recession and budget deficits, Kim is needed to exercise her cautious optimism in leading Hawaii during the slowly recovering economy. Her opponent is Republican Peter Dudek, who provides no information on background or issues.
In this region’s House districts, there are several interesting choices — and they don’t all favor the incumbent.
» House District 26 (Pacific Heights-Punchbowl): Sylvia Luke, the Democrat incumbent since 1998, is an attorney who deserves to continue serving her constituents. She is knowledgeable of their needs and has the grassroots know-how to benefit her community. Norm Katz, a retired CPA, is her Republican rival.
» House District 27 (Nuuanu-Liliha-Alewa): We endorse Republican incumbent Corinne Ching, who is attuned to the small-business needs of her area and has been an energetic proponent for revitalizing Liliha. She also champions heritage issues — which has interestingly turned into a bone of contention between Ching and Democratic challenger Lynn Vasquez, a political neophyte who co-founded the charitable Slippa Foundation.
» House District 28 (Chinatown-Downtown): This is a tough one. Democratic incumbent Karl Rhoads, elected in 2006, and Republican challenger David Chang both are attractive candidates with impressive resumes and intellect. Against a less-attractive incumbent, entrepreneur Chang, named the 2010 Pacific Business News’ Young Business Leader of the Year, would get the nod due to his potential and message of government fiscal accountability. But Rhoads is working hard for his constituents, with results in the Kukui Gardens affordable housing situation and increasing penalties for habitual johns in the fight against area prostitution. Rhoads deserves to continue.
» House District 29 (Kalihi-Kapalama): Incumbency doesn’t sway in this race; independence does. We see Republican challenger Ken Harding as the stronger candidate for his life and professional experience: he’s been an educator, former Kauai economic development director, and involved with neighborhood boards and the Peace Corps. Incumbent Joey Manahan has been a reliable Democratic vote — and yes, his cultural roots are strong in this district — but the House could use more independent thinkers.
» House District 30 (Kalihi): John Mizuno, the Democratic incumbent, is proving himself an action-oriented advocate for human service issues. With homelessness now squarely on many people’s radar, we’d like to see what he can help accomplish. His Republican opponent is faith-based political neophyte Carole Kaapu.