Newbies, veterans vying for Senate
Of the 14 seats in the 25-member state Senate open for election this year, six on Oahu will require voters to make a choice in the Aug. 13 primary election.
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Of the 14 seats in the 25-member state Senate open for election this year, six on Oahu will require voters to make a choice in the Aug. 13 primary election. Several of them pit seasoned politicians against smart and credible political newcomers.
>> District 9 (Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai): Three Democrats are vying for the chance to challenge longtime GOP Sen. Sam Slom. Our choice, Stanley Chang, has deep roots in East Honolulu, where he was born. He represented the community as a City Councilman from 2012 to 2015, pushing for road maintenance projects and, more notably, the sit-lie ban on public sidewalks that many laud but some have criticized for targeting the homeless. He favors increased investments in education and affordable housing, and emphasizes the importance of responding to his constituents’ concerns. Dr. Michael Bennett, an ophthalmologist and founder of the Retina Institute of Hawaii, takes a more conservative approach, calling for lowering taxes and creating a pro-business environment — much like incumbent Slom. The third Democratic candidate, Dr. Richard Y. Kim, a dentist, wants to improve Hawaii’s mental health by promoting the aloha spirit.
>> District 10 (Moiliili-Kaimuki-
Palolo): The incumbent Democrat, Les Ihara, has served in the Legislature for 30 years, and should continue to do so. He has distinguished himself as a champion of transparency in government and electoral reform, a trait sorely lacking among some legislators. He also is a strong supporter of services for an important growing constituency — the elderly, especially low-income folks who need safety net services. He also favors practical solutions to difficult problems, such as reducing conflicts among developers, environmentalists and Native Hawaiians. Ihara’s opponent, David Farrell, is a progressive Democrat who would tackle the high cost of living and homeless by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and establish rent control districts to stabilize prices in the housing market. He also would more closely regulate the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The winner of this primary will face Libertarian Arnold Phillips in the general election.
>> District 13 (Downtown-
Nuuanu-Liliha): Democratic voters have some good options among candidates to succeed the popular Suzanne Chun Oakland, who is not seeking re-election. Kim Coco Iwamoto, an attorney and former member of the elected state Board of Education, has served on numerous state boards and commissions, mostly related to education. Like her opponents in the primary, she sees homelessness as a top issue in her district. She advocates for Housing First and tax incentives for affordable housing development. Our choice, however, is Karl Rhoads, who seeks to move from the state House, where he has served for 10 years. Rhoads brings a sophisticated approach to the problems facing his district and the state. The legislation he promoted includes the state’s purchase of Kukui Gardens to protect affordable housing, legal services for the poor, and requiring disclosure of SuperPAC sources of funding. Rhoads has the depth of knowledge and experience to serve the district well. Also running is Keone Nakoa, a University of Hawaii business and law school graduate, who advocates for education, kupuna care and affordable housing.
>> District 14 (Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa): Two Democrats are vying for this seat. Carl Campagna, a renewable energy consultant, has been active in Democratic Party circles and advocates in particular for disadvantaged children and their educational needs. Campagna also wants a different ownership structure for Hawaiian Electric. For those seeking fresh faces at the Capitol, he would be a good choice. Nonetheless, the incumbent, Donna Mercado Kim, should get the nod. She has served in public office for 33 years — at the Senate, state House of Representatives and the Honolulu City Council — and has distinguished herself by her willingness to attack waste, fraud and abuse in government, including the infamous “Wonder Blunder” fiasco at the University of Hawaii. Her sometimes abrasive style has ruffled feathers in and out of the Senate; she was ousted at Senate president in May 2015, after three years on the job. Even so, she has a good grasp of the needs of her district and has been a reliable advocate for her constituents. She also notes that she has been a consistent opponent of tax increases, including fuel taxes, and is a strong advocate for prudent government spending.
>> District 19 (Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point): Two Republicans are on the primary ballot; the winner will face incumbent Democrat Will Espero in the general. Kurt Fevella, president of the Ewa Beach Lions Club, faces newcomer Chris Fidelibus, the owner of a real estate company. Fidelibus is an advocate for small business and wants to advance public/private partnerships to address such difficult problems as homelessness. Fevella, a grass-roots activist in his community, has pushed for a much-needed expansion of Campbell High School.
>> District 25 (Hawaii Kai-Waimanalo-Kailua): Republican voters will choose between Robert Nagamine and Heather Dozier in the primary; the incumbent Democrat is Laura Thielen. Nagamine, a retired National Guard chaplain, wants to tackle homelessness and crime, reduce government spending, and expand affordable housing beyond Oahu, connecting the islands with privately owned ferries.