Updated 10:50 a.m., 5/17/2016
Republican Rep. Gene Ward announced Monday that he is seeking his 10th term, ending conjecture that he would leave his seat representing Hawaii Kai to run for the state Senate against incumbent Sam Slom in the Aug. 13 primary.
As of Friday, Ward’s only opposition was Republican Cindy Vaillancourt, who pulled nomination papers May 9 to run for the District 17 seat, according to the latest filing report with the Hawaii Office of Elections.
She is the office manager for Rep. Lauren Matsumoto, who is part of a House Republican faction led by Minority Leader Beth Fukumoto Chang that rivals Ward’s more conservative faction. There are seven Republicans in the 51-member House.
Without naming Vaillancourt, Ward’s campaign statement said she is “in the process of withdrawing her name” from the race after being assured that he is “not running against his friend and colleague Senator Sam Slom under any circumstances and is encouraging all of his friends and constituents to support Senator Slom.”
Update Slom said Tuesday that those were indeed rumors and Ward was never running for the Senate seat.
“We are close friends,” Slom said. “It was rumors that were started. He was always running for reelection for his House seat just as I was always running for reelection of my Senate seat.”
The Ward campaign statement said that “even some Republicans had taken the rumor of Ward running against Slom more seriously than others, and one Republican actually took out papers for Ward’s seat if it became vacant.”
Vaillancourt told Civil Beat on Monday that she hadn’t withdrawn from the race so much as decided to no longer pursue it. Since she didn’t file her nomination papers, she doesn’t have to do anything to not appear on the ballot.
“There was some miscommunication along the way, but the other reality is I have a big purple cast on my leg,” said Vaillancourt, who spent 34 years in the Air Force.
“This might be an interest area under a difference set of circumstances but right now is not the time,” she said. “My overarching focus is on continuing to make sure that we have people who are willing and able to commit to public service.”
As Matsumoto’s office manager, Vaillancourt said she’s had “an opportunity to see how the sausage is made.” With that experience, she said when the time is more appropriate she would consider becoming a candidate.
Ward said he’s been in touch with Slom, the Senate’s lone Republican, on an almost daily basis since Slom underwent heart surgery last month. He missed a few weeks of the legislative session, which ended May 5, but returned in a wheelchair for the final week of voting.
“Sam is doing just fine and will file his papers tomorrow,” Ward said in the statement, adding that Slom is up for his Senate race.
Slom has no Republican challenger yet. Former Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang, a Democrat, has filed to run against Slom. Democrat Richard Kim has pulled nomination papers, but has yet to file.
The candidate filing deadline is June 7.
Also on the horizon is the Hawaii Republican Party State Convention, which is set for Saturday. Delegates will be choosing a national committeeman and national committeewoman to serve on the Republican National Committee, as well as adopting the party’s platform and rules.
Ward said in his campaign statement that one key issue in his district is the imminent closure of Koko Crater Stables.
“I have been told the stables will close at the end of this month or the end of June 2016; and this is exactly opposite what the (City and County of Honolulu) told us a year ago when they said they granted a long lease to a vendor who could reinvest and repair the aging facility,” Ward said, adding that he is working with the community to have the city explain its action at a town hall meeting or at a meeting with the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board.