At least eight incumbent lawmakers on Oahu and the Big Island could find themselves in election contests with their colleagues next year because new political boundary proposals have moved the neighborhoods in which they live out of the districts they represent.

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission is responsible for redrawing political lines every decade and presented the new maps for the first time on Thursday.

The maps are preliminary, and the commission will continue taking public input over the next two weeks to come up with an initial round of draft plans to take to public hearings.

Some of that input came Thursday from chagrined lawmakers and residents angered over how some neighborhoods would be split.

“I’m going to drop my Irish charm and speak bluntly. The maps are ridiculous,” Bart Dame, a Democratic party officer, told the commission.

A House district that now covers Diamond Head and Kahala would be split up among several other districts of East Honolulu. Screenshot Hawaii Reapportionment Commission/2021

Most changes are expected to take place in the House.

David Rosenbrock, the reapportionment project manager, told the commission that population growth on the Leeward Coast of Oahu created problems with redrawing districts on the island. Commissioners were aiming for a target population of 27,026 per House seat.

That meant East Oahu would lose a seat while West Oahu would gain one.

House District 19 which covers parts of Kapahulu, Diamond Head and Kahala, would be eliminated and divided among surrounding districts under the draft plans. Rep. Bert Kobayashi, who represents that district, did not return a phone message Thursday.

On the west side, Reps. Sharon Har and Matt LoPresti would end up in a new House District that would be created that represents Kalaeloa and parts of Ewa and Kapolei.

In an interview, LoPresti said he expected his district to shrink, but not for the commission to “make some amorphous shape that grabs me from behind out of my own district.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated LoPresti’s opponent during the 2020 elections.

A new district labeled House District 41 would pit Rep. Sharon Har against Rep. Matt LoPresti. Screenshot Hawaii Reapportionment Commission/2021

LoPresti says he still plans to run against Har if the district boundaries remain as they are.

Changes to district boundaries could also affect areas of urban Honolulu.

Part of Rep. Daniel Holt’s district was combined into a district made up of neighborhoods that are mostly represented by Rep. Takashi Ohno. Holt, who has been excluded from leadership roles for years under House Speaker Scott Saiki, said that is “a problem.”

Saiki has reportedly been exerting influence over the reapportionment process.

“This is obviously intentional,” Holt said in an interview. “Anybody who questions him or does not completely roll with what he says, (they) knew that this could be a possibility.”

Rep. Dan Holt would need to face Rep. Takashi Ohno in what would be House District 26. 

Holt now represents Kalihi, Palama, Iwilei and Chinatown. Ohno, who did not respond to a request for comment, now represents Liliha, Nuuanu, Puunui and Alewa Heights.

Rep. Adrian Tam may also be cut out of his House district which would be redrawn to only include Waikiki and parts of McCully bordering the Ala Wai Canal.

Mark Mugiishi, the chairman of the commission, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Unlike members of the House, most senators should make it out unscathed.

However on the Big Island, Sen. Lorraine Inouye and Sen. Laura Acasio may find themselves competing for the same district that represents urban Hilo.

Inouye currently represents a district that covers most of the northern end of Hawaii island. But the boundary for Senate District 1, which is represented by Acasio, would move north to take up neighborhoods along the Hamakua coast where Inouye lives.

Inouye said that she is still waiting for the district maps to be finalized, but said she will run against Sen. Laura Acasio to represent SD1 if the maps are approved in their current form.

Manoa, Waimanalo Residents Voice Frustration

Residents from Waimanalo, Kailua and Manoa also testified to the reapportionment commission to oppose changes in their House districts.

Kimeona Kane, chair of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, told the commission that tacking on the Portlock neighborhood of Hawaii Kai to a house district that includes Waimanalo and parts of Kailua would diminish Native Hawaiian voices in those areas.

House District 51, outlined in teal, would run from Portlock, around Makapuu, and cover Waimanalo and Lanikai. Screenshot Hawaii Reapportionment Commission/2021

“It’s disrespectful … to our Native Hawaiian people in Waimanalo and threatens the things we’ve been fighting for,” Kane said.

Bill Hicks, chair of the Kailua Neighborhood Board, echoed Kane’s concerns and said Makapuu is a natural boundary for that House district.

“You’d be representing three very different communities,” Hicks said.

Ellen Watson, a Manoa Neighborhood Board member, also voiced concerns over how the new maps would split up the Manoa valley. The proposed maps would split Manoa along University Avenue.

“There are natural boundaries with the mountains,” Watson said. “We support each other on initiatives and we really look out for one another, so I don’t want you to split up Manoa.”

The commissioners said they would take the public’s comments into consideration while revising the maps. Members of the subcommittee of commissioners that drafted the maps also defended their work.

Diane Ono said that the committee couldn’t just look at one district but needed to consider how some changes affect the entire island.

“The situation needs to be looked at in a macro way,” Ono said. “We couldn’t look at just one district and take from another district. There’s really a domino effect. A ripple effect. So whatever you do in one district has a ripple effect down the road.”

Civil Beat reporter Kevin Dayton contributed to this story.

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