Wednesday, July 26, 2006

11 legislators unopposed

The filing deadline for election candidates passes yesterday with little controversy except in Kona
By Richard Borreca and B.J. Reyes July 26th, 2006

There are 11 state politicians who woke up today with smiles on their faces.

The three Republican legislators and eight Democrats have no opposition in either the state primary or general election. So if they get just one vote in the Sept. 23 primary, they are automatically elected.

Yesterday was the deadline for candidates to file for this year's state and county elections, and there was a bit of last-minute controversy with at least one race.
Kona Republican Seth Gambee tried to file his papers to run against Rep. Josh Green (D, Keauhou-Honokohau) but learned that he had to go to Hilo, a two-hour drive, to file.
A private helicopter and pilot was volunteered to the GOP to fly Gambee to Hilo, but he then found out, according to GOP Chairman Sam Aiona, that some of the signatures on his filing petition did not match the listed home address, so he was not allowed to file.

"We are filing an appeal," Aiona said, adding that the private helicopter flight would be listed as an "in-kind contribution" to the state GOP.

The Democrats' new party chairman, Mike McCartney, spent much of yesterday working to fill as many races as possible for candidates to oppose the Republicans.
Two last-minute candidates brought in by McCartney were Kailua attorney Frank Lockwood, who will run against Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo), and Jane Sugimura, state Democratic Party treasurer, who will run against Rep. Lynn Finnegan (R, Mapunapuna-Foster Village).

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle looked at the filing deadline as a time of excitement for the state because there are 10 open House seats and also more contested GOP primaries.

"There are a lot of choices, and that makes it exciting for the public," Lingle said.
The contested primaries also show the GOP "is maturing and people are more willing to run as a Republican," Lingle said.

In the past four years, however, the number of seats in the House held by the GOP has dwindled from an all-time high of 19 to just 10 today.

McCartney echoed Lingle's interest in the contested primaries, saying that if Republicans are willing to face off against other Republicans, and Democrats challenge other Democrats in the primary election, "it makes it more interesting for the public."

Four House incumbents face primary challengers, including Democrat Bev Harbin and Republican Ann Stevens, both Lingle appointees.

Harbin was appointed in June to fill the Kakaako-Downtown district seat vacated by Ken Hiraki, who took a private-sector job. Days after her appointment, the Democratic Party and Lingle asked her to resign after it was revealed that her defunct auto-repair business closed while owing the state $125,000 in back taxes and that she had a criminal record for three misdemeanor counts of passing bad checks.

After first saying she would not run, Harbin later changed her mind, saying she was best qualified. She said she would continue to work on behalf of small business and also address concerns about crime and public safety in the district.

"Because of my proactive nature -- which everybody knows, I am in your face -- I go solve the problem," she said. Her primary opponents are Karl Rhoads, an attorney and neighborhood board member, and Carlton Middleton, a political unknown. Rhoads, who applied for Hiraki's vacancy and was one of four applicants the Democratic Party recommended to Lingle, declined to comment on Harbin's past, saying only that "honesty is always an issue."

"I'm running because the district deserves experienced and honest representation," he said, noting that he has lived there for 10 years. Middleton did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

Stevens (R, Waikiki-Ala Moana) is the newest member of the Legislature after being appointed in January to replace Galen Fox, who resigned in October after it was learned he was convicted in California for molesting a woman on an airplane.
"It's up to me to earn the seat as a popularly elected representative," Stevens said. "The nature of being appointed makes a lot of challengers feel that there's a potential to win the seat."

Stevens faces substitute teacher and hotel worker Mike Peters in the GOP primary.

"Her voting record is going to give Republican primary voters a very clear choice," said Peters, who also serves on the Waikiki Neighborhood Board. Peters specifically criticized Stevens' vote to raise the state's cigarette tax, even after signing a pledge to not raise taxes. Stevens said she supports lower taxes but voted in favor of the cigarette tax increase after hearing overwhelming support for the measure from constituents.

Other incumbents facing primary opposition are Michael Kahikina (D, Nanakuli), who is running against Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Cynthia Rezentes; and Kam Tanaka (D, Olowalu-Kapalua), who is being challenged by Angus McKelvey.

Here are the state legislators without opponents:

Sen. Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai), Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa), Sen. Donna Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa), Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake Foster Village) and Sen. Russell Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu).

Also Rep. Dwight Takamine (D, Hawi-Hilo), Rep. Josh Green (D, Keauhou-Honokohau), Rep. Mina Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa), Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City), Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) and Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Kahuku).

Also Honolulu City councilmen Donovan Dela Cruz and Charles Djou are running unopposed.

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