Hawaii’s biggest labor union overwhelmingly wants Democratic incumbents to keep their seats this election, but was silent on several state races.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association, which represents more than 42,000 state and county workers, announced its picks Monday for the Aug. 13 primary.

“Candidates seeking our endorsement went through an involved process including a question and answer session with our Political Action Committee members,” State Political Action Committee Chair Jon Gasper said in a release.

HGEA released its list of endorsements for the August primary election Monday.
HGEA released its list of endorsements for the August primary election Monday. Sara Lin/Civil Beat

“Endorsed candidates understand the issues that are important to working people, their families and our communities,” he said.

The endorsement list was mostly full of familiar names. The union wants Kirk Caldwell to continue serving as Honolulu mayor, Brian Schatz to stay in the Senate and Tulsi Gabbard to remain in Congress representing rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.

HGEA endorsed former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa over Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Lei Ahu Isa and five other Democrats running for the congressional seat representing urban Oahu.

For most of the 65 seats up this fall in the 76-member Legislature, HGEA went with the Democratic incumbents. Here are some exceptions.

In the Senate, HGEA endorsed Democrat Stanley Chang for the District 9 seat that’s long been held by Sen. Sam Slom, the chamber’s lone Republican.

And the union went with Democratic Rep. Karl Rhoads over Keone Nakoa and Kim Coco Iwamoto for the District 13 seat being vacated by Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland.

HGEA took no action for districts 15 or 20, currently held by Sens. Glenn Wakai and Mike Gabbard, respectively.

HGEA officials note in the release that “no action taken” means the candidates did not contact the union for an endorsement or didn’t do so in a timely manner. The union is still in the process of reviewing endorsements for Maui seats.

In the House, HGEA endorsed David Tarnas for District 7, a seat currently held by Democrat Cindy Evans.

And in the race for the District 29 seat, which is open since Rhoads is running for Senate, the union went with Valerie Belen Dionne over four other Democrats.

HGEA is backing Randy Gonce for District 40, hoping the Democrat can unseat Republican Bob McDermott.

And in Distrct 43, the union thinks Democrat Stacelynn Eli is the better primary choice than former Rep. Karen Awana in the race to unseat Republican Rep. Andria Tupola.

HGEA didn’t endorse House candidates representing several Oahu districts, instead encouraging members to vote for whomever they want.

These “open” seats include District 17, currently held by Rep. Gene Ward, one of eight Republicans in the Legislature; District 20, a seat Democratic Rep. Calvin Say has long held; District 30, held by Democratic Rep. Romy Cachola; District 33, held by Democratic Rep. Sam Kong; District 34, held by Democratic Rep. Gregg Takayama; District 36, held by Republican Rep. Beth Fukumoto, who is being challenged by former Democratic lawmaker Marilyn Lee and newcomer Zuri Aki; District 42, held by Democratic Rep. Sharon Har; District 45, held by Republican Rep. Lauren Matsumoto; District 47, held by Republican Rep. Feki Pouha; and District 50, held by Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen.

For Honolulu City Council, HGEA endorsed incumbents Kymberly Pine, Ikaika Anderson, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor.

On Kauai, the union backed Arthur Brun, Mason Chock, Gary Hooser, Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, Derek Kawakami, KipuKai Kualii and Mel Rapozo for the seven-member council.

And on the Big Island, HGEA endorsed Valerie Poindexter, Aaron Chung, Moana Kelii, Eileen O’Hara, Danny Paleka, Maile David, Dru Kanuha, Karen Eoff and Herbert Richards for the nine-member council, and Harry Kim for mayor.

To see the geographical boundaries of each district, check out the state Elections Office website here.

For a complete list of who is running for what races, visit here.

And check out Civil Beat’s 2016 elections guide here.

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