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Hawaii News

Legislative incumbents find little resistance at polls

Kevin Dayton
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Karl Rhoads (left), John Mizuno
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Lorna Sato voted Saturday at Washington Middle School in Honolulu. Her 2-1/2-year-old granddaughter Kealohilani Sato peeked under the curtain into another polling booth.

Former Waianae Neighborhood Board member ­Cedric Gates ousted Rep. Jo Jordan from her House seat representing Waianae, Makaha and Makua in the Democratic primary. Gates secured 52 percent of the votes to Jordan’s 42 percent, with all precincts reporting.

The Hawaii Democratic Party said late last month that Gates was actually not supposed to run as a Democrat on the ticket because he had run in 2014 as a Green Party candidate, which should bar him from the party for three years. However, party officials said they didn’t notice the error in time.

Gates told the Star-Advertiser last month that he hadn’t been notified by the party of the ban. Furthermore, he said that he confirmed with the Democratic Party on May 27, the day he filed election papers, that he was an active member of the party.

He is expected to remain listed as a Democrat on the general ballot as he faces Republican Marc Paaluhi.

All of the 51 House seats and half of the 25-member Senate seats are up for election this year. The rest of the incumbents who had primary challengers have held onto their party’s nomination and will move on to the general election, though not all of them have opponents.

State Rep. Sam Kong, the cab driver who also serves as a lawmaker, was nearly ousted from office by small business owner and independent television producer Tracy Arakaki in the closest race of the primary.

Kong, 56, is serving his first two-year term representing Aiea, and used the unusual strategy of accepting no campaign donations and no political endorsements. “It’s refreshing to be beholden to no one but you, my friend and neighbor,” Kong wrote.

Kong had a 37-vote lead at the final printout.

Daniel Holt, 31, managed to win a state House seat with a total of just 669 votes in the crowded five-member field in the Democratic primary for House District 29, which includes Kalihi, Palama, Iwilei and Chinatown. That seat was left vacant when House Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads opted to run for the state Senate.

Holt is state Senate assistant sergeant-at-arms, and is the son of former state Sen. Milton Holt.

In Manoa, House Higher Education Chairman Isaac Choy successfully defended his seat against a strong challenge by Dale Kobayashi, a political newcomer, winning by a 58-vote margin.

During the Democratic primary campaign, Kobayashi hammered on Choy for supporting the Paradise Park redevelopment plan in Manoa. Choy, who has represented the state House district that includes Manoa since 2009, said he supported the $15 million Paradise Park redevelopment proposal only if the community concerns were resolved.

Choy, 62, is known for his pointed public criticism of the University of Hawaii system, which he says must become more efficient. The faculty union University of Hawaii Professional Assembly endorsed Kobayashi, who is an accountant and son of Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.

State Rep. Cindy Evans prevailed in another close race with former state Rep. David Tarnas in the Democratic primary for the state House district that includes Kohala and portions of North Kona on the Big Island, with Evans winning by 184 votes.

Evans, 63, is a full-time lawmaker who won her eighth term in the House, where she is majority floor leader for the Democrats.

Tarnas, 55, has an environmental consulting business, and has worked on projects that include the Kiholo State Park Reserve plan, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the East Hawaii biofuels powerplant called Hu Honua Bioenergy.

On the East side of Hawaii island, state Sen. Russell Ruderman also deflected a challenge from two-term Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan. Ruderman enjoyed a more comfortable 670-vote margin of victory.

Ilagan supports continued geothermal development on the Big Island, and was one of three County Council members to vote in 2013 against a ban on farming of new genetically modified crops on the island. Ilagan said he could find no scientific evidence that GMO crops are unsafe.

Ruderman, who is operator of a chain of organic food stores on Hawaii island, strongly supported the GMO ban. He also opposes additional geothermal development on the island, arguing that other types of renewable energy are more desirable.

On Kauai, planning consultant and former Kauai County Managing Director Nadine Nakamura easily won the Democratic primary race to fill the open District 14 House seat representing Hanalei, Princeville, Anahola, Kapaa and Wailua.

Also in that race was Fern Anuenue Rosenstiel. The seat became open when state Rep. Derek Kawakami opted to run for the Kauai County Council.

Rep. Karl Rhoads won the Democratic primary race for the Senate seat representing portions of downtown, Nuuanu and Liliha that’s being vacated by veteran lawmaker Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland. She announced earlier this year that she would not be seeking another term.

Rhoads will face Rod Tam, who is running as a Republican, in the general election. Rhoads beat Kim Coco Iwamoto, a member of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and LGBT advocate, and Keone Nakota, a former aide to retired U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, in a competitive race.

Rep. John Mizuno, who has served portions of Kalihi and Kamehameha Heights for a decade, beat political newcomer Ikaika Hussey, 68 percent to 27 percent in the Democratic primary. Mizuno will face Republican Carole Kaapu in the general.

Hussey, publisher of Summit Magazine, couched himself as a “more progressive choice” for voters. He is one of a number of candidates this year who say they were inspired by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Kaniela Ing held off Democratic primary challenger Deidre Tegarden in the race for the the House seat representing South Maui, securing 62 percent of the votes to Tegarden’s 36 percent. He will face Republican Daniel Pekus in the general election.

Ing has represented the district since 2012. Tegarden, who served as chief of protocol under both Ige and former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, before stepping down to run for the seat, proved to be a formidable challenger.

She attracted the backing of several construction- related labor unions and raised about $71,160 in campaign cash, as of the end of July, compared to Ing’s $41,557.

Sen. Kai Kahele, the son of the late Sen. Gil Kahele, fended off his two challengers — Dennis Onishi and Kaloa Robinson — in the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat representing Hilo with 55 percent of the vote. Onishi trailed with 34 percent. Ige appointed Kahele in February to take the place of his father who passed away after suffering a heart attack.

5 responses to “Legislative incumbents find little resistance at polls”

  1. allie says:

    The very poor turnout allows the Party faithful and hangers-on to determine the election. Few really support the monopoly party with any enthusiasm.

    • HawaiiCheeseBall says:

      Allie, have some respect for the people who did vote. Most of the people who voted with me were not “hangers on” or party faithful types, but just ordinary people who vote because they have voted since they became eligible to vote and they do so because they feel it is their duty to vote and/or they want a say in how their government is constituted. .

  2. noheawilli says:

    Why do we keep putting the same reprobates in year after year?

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