Races heat up in Windward, Central Oahu
House Districts 46-51, ranging from Central Oahu and all around the Windward coastline, rarely see the level of political churn visible in the primary election to be settled Aug. 11.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
House Districts 46-51, ranging from Central Oahu and all around the Windward coastline, rarely see the level of political churn visible in the primary election to be settled Aug. 11. The neighboring 45th District, from the north end of Mililani up to Waialua and Mokuleia, is already settled, with incumbent Republican Rep. Lauren Cheape Matsumoto running unopposed.
Elsewhere, the campaign activity heats up, with several contested cases. What unifies this sprawling region spanning rural and suburban communities is the call to grapple with issues of homelessness and affordable housing, although most of the field believes further development should be directed to the urban core and West Oahu. “Keep the Country Country” is a common refrain here.
In District 46, the Wahiawa-Whitmore Village seat was vacated by state Rep. Marcus Oshiro mid-term. His appointed replacement, Lei Uemura Learmont, faces two other Democrats contending for the seat: Lester Fung and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s pick, Amy Perruso.
The Mililani High School teacher now serves as secretary-treasurer of the Hawaii State Teachers Association and was a member of the Governor’s Every Student Succeeds Act Task Force. Both she and Learmont are long-term residents of the district, and both list the area’s homelessness struggle among the top concerns. But Perruso has a more well-defined plan, including pushing for Wahiawa as a site for an “ohana zone.”
The front-runner here will face Republican John Miller after his uncontested primary.
The battles for the 47th District, from Waialua to Kaaawa, traditionally have involved balancing preservation and housing concerns, likely to rise again especially in the general election contest with incumbent Rep. Sean Quinlan, a Democrat, unopposed in the primary.
Instead the contest is in the GOP between Boyd Ready and Richard Fale, who formerly held the seat. Ready, a contractor and Hawaii Republican Party officer, has a long record of community engagement in a range of projects. He has a nuanced action plan that puts the focus on highway improvements, regulation of vacation rentals and modest housing proposals. He gets the endorsement in this race.
The seats in the 48th and 49th districts, stretching from Waiahole to Olomana, are now open with the resignations of their incumbents to run for the state Senate. These are very competitive races, drawing nine candidates in all. The 48th District Democratic primary is winner-take-all; in the 49th, the Democratic field is vying with nonpartisan candidate Adriel Lam.
The 48th District pits two former lawmakers — Jessica Wooley and Kika Bukoski — against Randy Gonce, an aide for former state Rep. Matt LoPresti, and Lisa Kitagawa, state Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson’s aide. All identified the principal concerns of their district, including Kaneohe, Kahaluu and Waiahole: cost of living, homelessness and infrastructure problems.
All are credible candidates, but Wooley does have the advantage of experience, and her advocacy in environmental law will serve a coastal district with environmental concerns.
She gave up her House seat in 2014 when then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed her as director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, which oversees the environmental review process. She left in 2015 after the change in administration. She would give the district a strong independent voice.
In the 49th, the Democratic field includes kumu hula Kaui Dalire; Natalia Hussey-Burdick, a legislative committee clerk and foster care guardian ad litem; attorney Scot Matayoshi and Kaneohe Neighborhood Board Chairman Mo Radke.
It’s a hotly contested race among four candidates with substantial community ties and support, but the Star-Advertiser endorsement goes to Matayoshi. He is young — 33 — but already shows breadth of experience and leadership potential. He has served on the Kailua Neighborhood Board for three years and taught science at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School, 2006-2009, before returning to law school.
Matayoshi has given a lot of thought to regional issues, from the management of Hawaii State Hospital to development within the urban core where, he and his election rivals agree, there is greater capacity for housing expansion.
In Kailua’s District 50, Republican incumbent Rep. Cynthia Thielen, unopposed in the GOP, will go on to face the winner of the Democratic primary between Micah Pregitzer and Miles Shiratori.
Pregitzer, a science teacher at Kalaheo High School, should be favored for his call for improving public education funding and for temporary housing for the homeless, and for concerns about the strains placed on the community by the unregulated vacation rentals in Kailua.
In the 51st District, spanning parts of Kailua and Waimanalo, the sitting representative, Democrat Chris Lee, will face a Republican challenge from Noe Galea’i in the general election; nonpartisan Coby Chock also is running.
TOMORROW: Honolulu City Council races.