State Rep. Derek Kawakami announced Thursday that he’s going to give up his seat in the Legislature and run for the Kauai County Council.

“It’s not so much a decision to run for council as it’s a decision to go back home and take care of the family,” said Kawakami, who’s married with two children. “In the blink of an eye I’ve seen my daughter go from this little elementary schoolgirl to almost a preteen.”

For five years, Kawakami has represented the 14th District, which runs from Wailua on the east side through Hanalei on the north shore. Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed him in April 2011 to fill the seat vacated by Mina Morita, who stepped down to head the state Public Utilities Commission.

Rep. Derek Kawakami, center, flanked by Reps. James Tokioka and Sharon Har on the House floor after being sworn into office in April 2011.

Rep. Derek Kawakami, center, flanked by Reps. James Tokioka and Sharon Har on the House floor after being sworn into office in April 2011.

Flickr: Sharon Har

Morita said Thursday she has no plans to seek her old seat.

Kawakami, a Democrat, ran unopposed in his first bid for re-election in 2012, and won another term in 2014 with 70 percent of the vote.

He served two terms on the County Council prior to his House appointment.

As of Friday, no candidate had filed to run for the 14th District seat.

Kawakami declined to speculate on who might run.

“That’s best left for the people to choose,” he said.

He said he gave the “most humongous mahalo to everyone in that square building” that he’s worked with at the Capitol. He said he hopes to apply what he learned at the state level if he’s elected again to the council, particularly the importance of working together.

The Kauai County Council has seven at-large seats, with the top 14 vote-getters in the August primary advancing to the November general election. So far, nine people have pulled papers to run for the Council posts, and three have actually filed their candidacies.

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