comscore Ex-state employee vies for Kauai seat
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Ex-state employee vies for Kauai seat

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    Thomas Oi (left); James Tokioka

Former state land surveyor Thomas Oi is challenging incumbent state Rep. James Tokioka for the District 15 seat.

The district covers Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town and Omao.

Running for elected office for the first time, Oi, a Democrat, pledges to bring public trust to government.

“As a legislative body, we have to work together for the betterment of Kauai,” he said. “That has not been happening in the past years.”

Born and raised in Palolo, Oi, 67, moved in 1970 to Kauai, where he worked with a private engineering firm, Kutaka, Portugal Ibara and Associates Inc., for 15 years.

Oi then worked with the state for 25 years at three different departments: as a surveyor with both the Department of Transportation’s Highways Division and the Department of Accounting and General Services’ Land Survey Division, and as Kauai district land agent for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. In the DLNR position he managed public lands on Kauai and Niihau until he retired in 2011.

He also worked as a legislative aide to state Democratic Rep. Dee Morikawa of District 16 (Niihau-Lehua-Koloa-Waimea).

In 2014 Oi served as interim member representing the Kauai district on the Board of Land and Natural Resources. The Senate has since confirmed Oi to serve another term through June 2020.

Affordable housing is Oi’s top priority to address the plight of exorbitant housing costs. Families have a hard time affording a house, he said, adding, “I feel like the state should take an active role in affordable housing.”

Promoting self-sustainability is also a pressing issue Oi pledges to address, if elected.

Tokioka, 54, is seeking a re-election for a sixth term. Education remains a key issue for Tokioka as well as cooling classrooms to improve conditions for students and teachers.

He is vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans, Military and International Affairs and Culture and the Arts.

A Democrat, Tokioka has served in government for 20 years. He first served on the Kauai County Council for 10 years before he was elected to the District 15 seat following former Rep. Ezra Kanoho’s retirement.

Tokioka is passionate about improving conditions for the deaf community, as his 21-year-old son, Pono, a senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa majoring in finance and accounting, is deaf.

In 2015 Hawaii lawmakers passed a measure that mandates captioning in movie theaters. Hawaii is the first state in the nation to enact the law.

In August Tokioka, under a plea agreement, pleaded no contest to a campaign spending violation complaint for allegedly filing an incomplete and inaccurate campaign committee report.

He and his attorney contended he did not deliberately try to deceive the public by failing to report proceedings from two fundraising events held in Honolulu, and that the error was due to miscommunication and oversight by his volunteer campaign workers.

Tokioka paid a $1,000 fine and published an apology on his campaign’s Facebook page.

Under terms of the plea agreement, a judge allowed Tokioka to clear his record of the misdemeanor charge if he stayed out of trouble for a year.

His attorney, Craig De Costa, said the charge had been expunged as of July 7.

Tokioka works as a business manager for Oceanic Time Warner Cable outside of his legislative duties.

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