The primary race for the state House District 44 seat, which includes Maili, Waianae, Makaha and Makua, pits two familiar faces against each other on the Democratic side and two newcomers on the Republican end.
In January 2011 Jo Jordan was appointed by then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the district seat. A 45-year Waianae Coast resident and former small-business owner, Jordan, a Democrat, said she is seeking re-election because she wants to continue serving her community and to see several key projects through.
The incumbent pointed to her life skills, experiences and knowledge gained over the years as what sets her apart from other candidates. A graduate of Waianae High School and the Honolulu Police Academy, she served on the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board for 12 years.
Jordan, 54, said two of her top issues are homelessness and education. She said she wants to continue pushing for better teaching staff and opportunities for students, and that the state needs to continue to make more strides. She said she is proud to be a product of Hawaii’s public schools.
Traffic, a major concern for Waianae Coast residents, is another key priority, she said, pointing out the issue cannot be resolved overnight and will take a joint effort from the city and state to look at changes across Oahu. She said possible solutions include a ferry system from Waianae to Honolulu or altering the University of Hawaii’s schedule, but job sustainability and growth are also important factors in helping residents work in the communities they live in rather than commute into town.
“I try not to be somebody (who says), ‘I want to see this change, and I’m only going to concentrate on that.’ That’s not me. At the end of the day, everything connects,” said Jordan, a Makaha resident. “I’m no different than everybody else out there. We are all here to make it together. I love my community and I want to serve them.”
Cedric Gates, Jordan’s Democratic opponent, maintains the community could benefit from a “fresh new vision.”
The Makaha resident ran for the House seat in 2014 as the Green Party candidate but lost to Jordan in the general election. Gates, who has served on the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board for about three years, including as its onetime chairman, said he would push for a community-based approach with a goal to unify the coast.
Gates, 23, attended Waianae High School and earned a diploma through the YouthBuild Honolulu program. He co-founded Active Hawaii, a nonprofit that encourages community unity and wellness through physical activities, nutrition education and advocacy. He served as an intern for U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, is studying public administration and political science at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu, and works as a teacher’s assistant at Makaha Elementary School.
He said his top priorities if elected would be transportation and public infrastructure, cost of living and housing, and Native Hawaiian affairs. He said he would reach out to the community to start organizing a plan to address traffic, and work with all elected officials for funding. He said the government needs to offer more incentives to developers to build low-income housing, adding that the shortage of affordable rentals has contributed to the problem.
Gates said the plight of Native Hawaiians is linked to key issues such as environmental justice, homelessness and poverty. He stressed the importance of inclusion and unity in addressing all issues facing Waianae Coast residents.
“I’ve experienced a lot of the same struggles that community residents face on a day-to-day basis,” said Gates, whose parents died when he was younger. “I think my leadership on the neighborhood board has shown that I’m able to gather the right people on the issues and take action. I think we need new blood to balance out the decisions made.”
The primary election is Aug. 13, with the party winners facing each other in the November general election.
Republicans Marc Paaluhi, a former construction superintendent, and Tamiko Sequin, a former teacher, also face off in the primary, marking the first time either has run for political office.
Paaluhi, 39, said he is focused on a family-oriented approach that prioritizes working collaboratively with residents and city and state officials. He pointed to his experience raising seven children and his background as a carpenter as ways he would bring a different perspective to local government.
A longtime Waianae Coast resident who grew up in Waipahu, he has served on the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board for a year and is the board’s chairman. A graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Paaluhi has volunteered to help with community cleanups and the Waianae Hoolaulea.
He said he chose to get involved in the neighborhood board while recovering from a work injury, adding that “the Lord just kind of put it in my heart to get into the community.” He said homelessness, traffic and economic development are key concerns he would focus on if elected. Many great solutions to traffic, he said, have been suggested by residents and need to be further vetted.
“With everything there’s a compromise. We strongly believe that a lot of our ideas are very fair,” said Paaluhi, who lives in Waianae. “I’m the type of individual that really takes it to heart that I make sure I do it to the best of my abilities. It’s always been about serving others.”
Paaluhi said he has worked with leaders of the homeless encampment near the Waianae Boat Harbor and is also focused on ensuring the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands program is sustainable for future generations.
Sequin, a former preschool teacher and therapeutic aide, said her experiences as a mother and educator will help her represent the community. Born and raised on the Waianae Coast, Sequin, 45, has five children and four grandchildren.
She previously worked at the Aulani Disney Resort and as a Head Start teacher. The Makaha resident also was a substitute teacher and an educational assistant at Leihoku Elementary School. Sequin was studying elementary education at UH West Oahu but said she withdrew to focus on her campaign.
After talking to constituents, she said, many were concerned about homelessness. She said it would be among her top priorities if elected. She said there need to be more emergency shelters with teams to provide crisis counseling, along with detailed records tracking the homeless who are entering the shelters. It is not a district issue, but an issue that needs to be addressed statewide, she said.
Other priorities she would focus on include education and parks. Sequin said she would like to address the public school bullying policy and help to educate students and parents on what is expected. She also said it is important to work with the city to clean up and care for the Waianae Coast’s parks, an effort that could help boost residents’ quality of life.
“As a teacher I feel that I was heavily involved in the community. We didn’t only teach the students; we made sure that the families were hooked up with all the different resources they needed,” she said. “Mothers are pretty resourceful. They do it with their whole heart. This is not just any community. This is the community where my babies and my grandbabies grew up.”
CORRECTION: Tamiko Sequin, a Republican candidate for state House District 44, was studying elementary education at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu, not early childhood education as reported in an earlier version of this story and a news story in Tuesday’s paper.
CORRECTION: State Rep. Jo Jordan said one possible solution to help ease traffic would be a ferry system from Waianae to Honolulu, not from Kalaeloa to Honolulu, as reported in a July 12 news story.