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3 incumbents fall in state Legislature races

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    The state Legislature will see several new faces in its 2019 session.

Three incumbents in the state Legislature, one in the Senate and two in the House, lost their Capitol jobs after nearly all of the votes were counted in Saturday’s primary election.

In the Democratic race for the Senate District 12 seat, which spans from Kakaako to Waikiki, community advocate Sharon Moriwaki defeated Sen. Brickwood Galuteria after the fourth printout before midnight Saturday, with most votes tallied. Moriwaki claimed 53.6 percent, compared with 33.8 percent for Galuteria. The winner moves on to the general election in November.

In the House, Hawaii island Rep. Cindy Evans fell to former legislator David Tarnas in a bid to be the Democratic candidate in November for the District 7 seat, which includes Kaupulehu, Waimea and Halaula. Evans had 44.7 percent, compared with 52 percent for Tarnas.

Rep. Lei Learmont, with 38.9 percent, lost to challenger Amy Perruso, who had 45.3 percent, in her re-election bid to represent the Wahiawa area for the District 46 seat. The winner moves on to the general election.

Other incumbents appeared to be faring better, though they were some close contests.

Sen. Gil Riviere defeated Clayton Hee, who was trying to get his old District 23 North Shore seat back in a winner-take-all contest. Riviere had 63.6 percent, compared with Hee’s 31.9 percent.

In the race to fill the District 24 seat being vacated by Sen. Jill Tokuda, who is running for lieutenant governor, two Democratic House members battled for that Windward Oahu seat in another winner-take-all battle. Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole tallied 56.3 percent compared with Rep. Ken Ito’s 38.8 percent.

In the Senate race for the District 19 Leeward Oahu seat vacated by Sen. Will Espero, who is running for lieutenant governor, Rep. Matt LoPresti defeated lobbyist Alicia Maluafiti, 54.7 percent to 24 percent. The winner moves on to the general election.

For the District 3 Hawaii island seat being vacated by Sen. Josh Green, County Council member Dru Kanuha held a lead over Brenda Ford, a former county council member, hoping to move on to the general. Kanuha won 51.5 percent to Ford’s 43.9 percent.

In the House District 23 seat being vacated by Rep. Isaac Choy, Dale Kobayashi, a retired financial industry executive, beat other Democratic challengers in the winner-take-all race to represent the Manoa area. Kobayashi had 36.5 percent. His closest challenger, Andrew Garrett, had 23.1 percent.

In the winner-take-all contest for the House District 48 seat, which includes Kahaluu, Ahuimanu and Kaneohe, Lisa Kitagawa, an office manager at the Legislature, defeated three other candidates, including former legislators Kika Bukoski and Jessica Wooley. Kitagawa received 38 percent, compared with 28.3 percent for Wooley, her closest competitor.

In the District 36 slot being vacated by Rep. Beth Fukumoto, a Congressional candidate, former Rep. Marilyn B. Lee, trying to win back that Mililani seat, held onto a lead over Dean Hazama and two other Democratic challengers. Lee captured 33.3 percent of the vote, compared with Hazama’s 29.6 percent.

The Republicans, who hold only five seats in the House and none in the Senate, will not keep the seat being vacated by Rep. Andria Tupola, who is running for governor as the Republican nominee.

Sailau Timoteo, the sole Republican candidate for Tupola’s Leeward Oahu District 43 seat, was declared ineligible late last month by the state Attorney General’s Office because she is a U.S. national, not a U.S. citizen.

In the Democratic primary for that District 43 race, Stacelynn Eli, with 82.8 percent, overwhelmed Michael Jesus Juarez, who had 10 percent, and claims the seat outright.

Even before the primary, 17 races already were decided because no one stepped up to challenge the incumbents. That means Sen. Breene Harimoto (D, Pearl Harbor-Pearl City-Aiea) and 16 House members are assured of keeping their jobs at the state Capitol. Fifteen of the 16 are Democrats.

Rep. Lauren Matsumoto (R, Mililani-Schofield-Kunia) was the only Republican to run unopposed.

Fifteen other races – four in the Senate and 11 in the House – were being decided today because of a lack of a general election opponent.

Drawn by the lure of higher office, nine incumbents left or are vacating their legislative seats to seek other jobs. Two other incumbents left or are leaving the Legislature, bringing the open seats to 11. Three are in the Senate and eight in the House.

Those vacancies have helped attract 10 former elected officials to the races, including eight who previously served in the Legislature and two former county council members. Six of the 10 are running for the open seats.

Thirteen of the 25 Senate seats and all 51 in the House were on the ballot.

But Democrats are assured of maintaining their dominance in both bodies.

In 39 of the 64 races, or 61 percent, Republicans did not even put up a candidate.

Because of the open seats, some new faces will be at the state Capitol when the Legislature convenes in January.

But political analysts say they don’t expect to see a major shift in policy, given that the two chambers still will be firmly controlled by Democrats.

The new faces, though, potentially could alter the dynamics that determine who leads the two chambers.

But that won’t become clearer until after the general election.

Among the 16 House members who ran unopposed were Speaker Scott Saiki (D, Downtown-Kakaako-McCully) in the 26th District and Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuuanu) in the 25th District. Luke chairs the powerful House Finance Committee.

For full Honolulu Star-Advertiser coverage of the 2018 Primary Election, go to

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