Courtney Teague – Honolulu Civil Beat https://www.civilbeat.org Honolulu Civil Beat - Investigative Reporting Sun, 19 May 2019 01:07:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 Should Hawaii Convert To Ranked Choice Voting? https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/08/should-hawaii-convert-to-ranked-choice-voting/ Mon, 20 Aug 2018 10:01:37 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1293954 What do judges for the Best Picture Academy Award have in common with the state of Maine? Both use ranked choice, or instant runoff, voting systems, which allow voters to list candidates in order of preference. Some say it’s an electoral system worth exploring in Hawaii because it can result in winners who have broader […]

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What do judges for the Best Picture Academy Award have in common with the state of Maine?

Both use ranked choice, or instant runoff, voting systems, which allow voters to list candidates in order of preference.

Some say it’s an electoral system worth exploring in Hawaii because it can result in winners who have broader support in races with three or more candidates.

Person leaves booth at Early Voting 2018 Honolulu Hale. 4 aug 2018

Some Hawaii legislators have supported ranked choice balloting in nonpartisan or special elections, where there are sometimes a multitude of candidates.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

With ranked choice, voters can indicate not only their top choice but second choice, third choice and so on down the ballot. If no candidate receives a majority of top-choice ballots, elections officials eliminate the lowest vote-getter and a new round of counting ensues.

In the second tally of ballots, top-choice votes for the last-place candidate are eliminated and those voters’ second-choice picks are converted into top-choice picks for the remaining candidates. This continues round by round, with the lowest vote-getter eliminated each round, until someone wins by having half of all remaining top-choice votes.

When there are a lot of candidates, it can take several rounds to declare a winner.

Click here for a visual explanation of ranked choice voting from Minnesota Public Radio.

Some political scientists question how well the system actually works in American elections. Voters may not rank enough candidates to have a say in the final outcome, for example.

Still, a few Hawaii lawmakers have proposed legislation to use ranked choice voting for nonpartisan or special elections, and it has been endorsed by the good government group Common Cause Hawaii.

“Because of the way the votes are tallied, it really does promote fairness,” said Corie Tanida, head of Common Cause. “The results are more grounded in majority rules.”

Proposed For Special Elections

Maine is the only state to adopt the system in all elections, but a handful of other states use it in special elections. Several cities use ranked choice voting, with the particulars varying by jurisdiction.

Hawaii lawmakers have proposed using the system in a couple of different ways.

A 2016 bill would have used it in primaries, special elections and general elections, but it never made it to a hearing. A set of bills introduced in 2017 would have only instituted ranked choice voting in special congressional elections.

In special congressional elections in Hawaii, candidates of all parties run on a single ballot with the top vote-getter winning regardless of percentage. This is what allowed then-Republican Charles Djou to win the 2010 special election for the 1st Congressional District with 39.4 percent of the vote when two Democrats took 58.4 percent of the vote combined.

If ranked choice voting had been used, it’s possible one of the Democrats would have emerged as the winner.

This sample ballot shows how Maine voters are asked to rank candidates.

Screenshot: maine.gov

One of the 2017 bills would have required the Office of Elections to allow voters to rank candidates for a special congressional election, although officials could have limited the number of candidates voters were allowed to rank if the office deemed it wasn’t feasible to allow voters to rank them all.

The bill required elections officials to educate voters and post sample ballots a week in advance of the special elction.

Sen. Karl Rhoads, who introduced one of the 2017 bills, said he thinks the system makes sense in races with many candidates — not only special congressional elections, but also nonpartisan county council or Office of Hawaiian Affairs races.

“Especially in special elections where there’s no primary … you sometimes get people who had very little popular support,” Rhoads said. “It just makes it such a crapshoot.”

Ranked choice voting is thought to give third-party or independent candidates a better shot since voters can pick more than one candidate. In theory, you’d still have a shot as a lesser-known candidate, Tanida said.

Proponents believe ranked choice voting would cut down on strategic voting, such as voting for a candidate who’s more likely to win instead of the candidate whose beliefs align most closely with their own.

The method is also thought to reduce the “spoiler effect,” which can occur when two candidates with similar views split votes of a like-minded electorate. When this happens, a third candidate with opposing views can win, even though more voters may generally support the views of the two similar candidates.

Ranked choice voting successfully eliminated the spoiler effect in a 2010 Oakland election, according to an opinion piece in Newsweek.

Jean Quan, a progressive, was elected the city’s first female mayor in a 10-way race. She beat a heavily favored, conservative Democrat after polling a distant second in the first vote count, where only voters’ first preferences were tallied.

She ultimately won because she aligned herself with the other candidates. After additional rounds of tallying, Quan received votes from a candidate who initially polled in third place.

Fairvote, a national advocate for election reforms, wrote in testimony on one of the 2017 Hawaii bills that fewer people are skipping city elections in San Francisco and Oakland since the method has been implemented there.

It’s possible for a candidate who’s the top choice of relatively few voters to win in a ranked choice election, depending on how many candidates voters choose to rank.

The Newsweek piece pointed to a 21-candidate San Francisco district supervisor election in 2010. Malia Cohen, who placed third in the first round of vote tallying, won after 20 rounds. Just 20 percent of voters picked Cohen in their top three, according to an SF Gate column.

There’s also the issue of voter fatigue, meaning that voters may not take advantage of the opportunity to rank enough candidates. Ballots cast by nearly 30 percent of voters in a 2011 San Fransisco mayoral election didn’t make it to the final round because their top three choices had been eliminated and they didn’t rank their four choices and beyond, according to a paper published by political scientists Craig Burnett and Vladimir Kogan.

A skeptical opinion piece published in Democracy Journal argues that it’s unlikely that ranked choice voting will actually wrest back much power from Democrats and Republicans in America’s two-party system.

Tanida of Common Cause Hawaii says the organization still supports some form of ranked choice voting in spite of the criticism.

Hawaii would have to figure out which races would work best with ranked choice voting and what safeguards may be needed, Tanida said. So far the bills that have proposed implementing the method haven’t gotten far.

“It comes down to education because (ranked choice voting) is a new system,” she said. “I think it should be discussed, but it just hasn’t had the opportunity.”

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3 Incumbent Lawmakers Lose State Legislative Seats https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/08/sen-gil-riviere-has-big-lead-over-clayton-hee-in-key-legislative-race/ Sun, 12 Aug 2018 05:36:25 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1293864 State Sen. Gil Riviere cruised to an easy re-election Saturday in the much-watched Democratic primary battle to represent Oahu’s North Shore against former Sen. Clayton Hee.  Riviere, who previously served in the House as a Republican, held the seat for one four-year term, but Hee represented the area in the Senate for a decade. Hee dropped […]

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State Sen. Gil Riviere cruised to an easy re-election Saturday in the much-watched Democratic primary battle to represent Oahu’s North Shore against former Sen. Clayton Hee. 

Riviere, who previously served in the House as a Republican, held the seat for one four-year term, but Hee represented the area in the Senate for a decade. Hee dropped out of the governor’s race months ago and instead decided to seek his old seat.

Riviere had 63.8 percent of the vote while Hee had 31.6 percent, according to numbers released by the state Office of Elections. There were no candidates from other parties, so Riviere will retain his seat.

State Sen. Gil Riviere defeated challenger Clayton Hee, who earlier had dropped out of the governor’s race, in a closely watched North Shore legislative race.

Gil Riviere

This year’s legislative primary is unusual in that nine lawmakers are leaving their seats to run for higher office. New faces will join the Legislature next session and this could prompt a reshuffling of the power structures in both chambers of the Capitol. 

All 51 House seats and 13 of the 25 Senate seats were up for grabs.

Legislative Shakeups

Here are returns from some of the other House and Senate races:

• Sen. Brickwood Galuteria lost his Senate District 12 (Kakaako to Moiliili, Waikiki) seat with his primary loss to fellow Democrat Sharon Morikawa by 33.6 percent to 53.5 percent.

The winner of that Democratic primary will face Republican Lynn Barry Mariano in November.

Galuteria wasn’t the only incumbent to lose. In a rematch from two years ago, Rep. Cindy Evans lost to David Tarnas, 44.8 percent to 51.9 percent. 

A third Democratic incumbent, Rep. Lei Learmont, lost to challenger Amy Perruso 38.7 percent to 45.3 percent. Gov. David Ige appointed Learmont in December to fill the House seat vacated by Rep. Marcus Oshiro.

Another longtime incumbent, House Democrat Romy Cachola, was leading challenger Sonny Ganaden by just five votes in late results Saturday, but pulled away to victory with a final count early Sunday, 48.2 percent to 45.5 percent.

• In Senate District 24 (Kaneohe), Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole and Rep. Ken Ito battled to replace Sen. Jill Tokuda, who vacated her seat to run for lieutenant governor. She lost by a narrow margin to Sen. Josh Green.

Keohokalole had 56.2 percent of the vote and Ito had 38.8 percent. There are no other candidates, so the Democratic primary winner gets the seat.

Ito has a more conservative voting record than Keohokalole and has served part of the district in the House for more than 20 years. Keohokalole has represented another part of the district in the House for four years.

• In the race to represent Senate District 3 (Kona), County Councilman Dru Kanuha beat fellow Democrat and former Hawaii County Councilwoman Brenda Ford by 52.1 percent to 43.4 percent . 

Kanuha will face Libertarian candidate Michael Last in November. Green vacated the post to run for lieutenant governor.

• Another battle for an open seat unfolded in Senate District 19 (Ewa). Rep. Matt LoPresti, who is vacating the House seat he’s held for four years, crushed Alicia Maluafiti, a longtime lobbyist for genetically modified seed companies.

LoPresti won with 54.6 percent of the vote, Maluafiti had 24.2 percent and a third Democrat, Veronica Duzon, had 10.2 percent.

Maluafiti, who also operates a taxpayer-funded nonprofit for pets, has the support of the Senate’s top brass. 

LoPresti will face Republican Kurt Fevella in the general election.

The District 19 seat was recently vacated by former Sen. Will Espero, another unsuccessful lieutenant governor candidate.

One Less Republican In The House?

Just five Republicans remain in the 76-person Hawaii Legislature, all in the 51-member House of Representatives.

Republican Rep. Andria Tupola vacated her House District 43 (Maili to Ewa Villages) seat to run for governor.

Tupola’s choice to be her successor, Republican Sailau Timoteo, was deemed ineligible to run last week because she was born in American Samoa and is not a U.S. citizen.

That left the race to two Democrats, Stacelynn Kehaulani Eli and Michael Jesus Juarez. Eli won with  82.8 percent, while Juarez had 9.9 percent.

Nonpartisan candidate Angela Kaaihue was also running for the seat. Kaaihue garnered attention as a candidate for Congress in 2016 by making derogatory statements about Japanese-Americans, Hindus, Buddhists and others.

She got only 18 votes, far short of what she would have needed to advance to the general election.

Here are highlights from some of the other House races:

• In District 44 (Waianae), Rep. Cedric Gates easily defeated former Rep. Jo Jordan. Gates had 68.0 percent of the vote, while Jordan had 29.8 percent.

Gates unseated Jordan in 2016, although it was later determined that he shouldn’t have been allowed to run. Democratic Party officials allowed him to run as a Democrat in 2016, despite party rules forbidding him from doing so after running as a Green Party candidate in 2014.

• In House District 41 (Ewa), former Rep. Rida Cabanilla is on track to regain her seat. In the Democratic primary, Cabanilla had 48.2 percent of the vote to Lynn Robinson-Onderko’s 35.1 percent.

Cabanilla held the seat for a decade and was majority floor leader when LoPresti ousted her in 2014.

Cabanilla will face Republican Chris Fidelibus in November.

• In District 23 (Manoa), Democrat Dale Kobayashi, who lost by 70 votes to incumbent Rep. Isaac Choy in 2016, beat out four other Democrats in early returns to replace Choy, who did not seek another term.

Kobayashi, son of longtime Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, had 36.7 percent of the vote compared to 23.1 percent for Andrew Garrett, 11.0 percent for Dylan Armstrong, 9.0 percent for Elton Fukumoto and 7.1 percent for Benton Rodden.

• In District 36 (Mililani), four Democrats vied to replace Rep. Beth Fukumoto, who is vacating the seat to run for Congress. She lost by a wide margin.

Marilyn Lee won with  33.1 percent, Dean Hazama had 29.7 percent, Trish La Chica had 22.6 percent and Zuri Aki had 8.0 percent.

Lee is a former legislator who was unseated by Republican-turned-Democrat Fukumoto in 2012.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Val Okimoto in the general election.

• In District 11 (Kihei to Wailea-Makena), Democrats Lee Myrick, Tina Wildberger and Don Couch faced off to replace Rep. Kaniela Ing, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Wildberger won with 54.6 percent, compared to 37.7 percent for Couch and 4.0 percent for Myrick.

There were no Republican candidates, so Wildberger gains the seat because nonpartisan candidate Daniel Kanahele fell far short of what he needed to advance to the general election.

• In District 33 (Aiea), incumbent Rep. Sam Kong faced a challenge from Tracy Arakaki in the Democratic primary. Kong kept his seat with 51.8  percent of the vote to Arakaki’s 25.9 percent.

Kong was first elected to the seat in 2014, but beat Arakaki by just 37 votes when he challenged Kong in 2016.

• Since Ito and Keohokalole ran for the Senate, their two Kaneohe-area House seats were up for grabs.

Four Democrats fought to represent District 48, Keohokalole’s seat. Lisa Kitagawa had 37.9 percent, former Rep. Jessica Wooley had 28.1 percent, Kika Bukoski had 20.7 percent and Randy Gonce had 9.6 percent.

There were no other candidates, so Kitagawa gets the seat.

Four Democrats were also contending for District 49, Ito’s seat. Scot Matayoshi had 69.5 percent, Natalia Hussey-Burdick had 18.1 percent, Mo Radke had 4.1 percent and Kaui Dalire had 4.2 percent.

Matayoshi wins the seat because nonpartisan candidate Adriel Lam fell far short of what was needed to force a general election runoff.

Easy Wins

Many legislators won their primary races and will not face a general election opponent. They include Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and Sen. Lorraine Inouye; and Reps. Mark Nakashima, Richard Creagan, Troy Hashimoto, Kyle Yamashita, James Tokioka, Dee Morikawa, Daniel Holt and Sharon Har. All are Democrats who won by comfortable margins, except for Yamashita who escaped a tough challenge from progressive Tiare Lawrence by less than 4 percentage points.

Seventeen Democratic incumbents ran unopposed and automatically won re-election. They include House Speaker Scott Saiki, Majority Leader Della Au Belatti and Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke; Reps. Joy San Buenaventura, John Mizuno, Gregg Takayama, Aaron Ling Johanson and Nicole Lowen; and Sen. Breene Harimoto.

Democratic incumbents poised to move on to face Republican or other opponents in the general election include Sens. Roz Baker, Clarence Nishihara, Michelle Kidani and Maile Shimabukuro; and Reps. Chris Todd, Mark Hashem, Ryan Yamane, Calvin Say, Tom Brower, Takashi Ohno, Cachola, Lynn DeCoite, Angus McKelvey, Bert Kobayashi and Richard Onishi.

For the now-four Republican House incumbents, Rep. Lauren Matsumoto Cheape was unopposed and will be re-elected automatically while Reps. Bob McDermott, Gene Ward and Cynthia Thielen face either Democratic or Libertarian opponents in the general election but are expected to easily keep their seats.

Newly elected legislators will begin their terms Nov. 7, the day after the general election.

To see the outcome of every race, click here

Chad Blair and Nathan Eagle contributed to this report.

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Want To Run For Office In Hawaii Without Joining A Political Party? Good Luck https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/08/want-to-run-for-office-in-hawaii-without-joining-a-political-party-good-luck/ Thu, 09 Aug 2018 10:01:07 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1292861 It’s hard for any non-establishment candidate to win an election in Hawaii. But state election rules make it especially difficult for candidates who don’t align with any political party to advance past the primary in partisan races. This isn’t an issue in races for mayor, county councils or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which are […]

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It’s hard for any non-establishment candidate to win an election in Hawaii. But state election rules make it especially difficult for candidates who don’t align with any political party to advance past the primary in partisan races.

This isn’t an issue in races for mayor, county councils or the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which are completely nonpartisan. But if you dare to run as a nonpartisan for partisan offices like the Legislature, governor, lieutenant governor or Congress, well, good luck.

“I knew I was a long shot, but I didn’t realize the deck was stacked against you,” said Andrew Kayes, a candidate for the state House District 9 seat in Central Maui.

Under the state’s primary rules, voters must choose a single party’s ballot. That could be Democrat, Republican, the Green Party or others, or they could choose to vote only in the sparsely populated nonpartisan races for state offices.

Andrew Kayes

But here’s the catch: While the top vote-getter in any party advances to the general election no matter how many primary votes they receive, nonpartisan candidates have to meet a different standard to advance. They must receive at least 10 percent of the total votes cast for that office (pretty much impossible) or as many votes as the lowest total received by a partisan candidate who wins a party nomination (possible, but only if there’s at least one candidate from an obscure party in the race).

Kayes admits he was still confused even after elections office workers explained the rules to him.

“I would argue that it’s a law that grossly favors incumbents and the party in power,” he said.

The Price Of Being Independent

Adriel Lam, the only independent candidate running to represent the Kaneohe area in state House District 49, knows this struggle. He’s running along with four Democrats for the seat.

Lam said the law almost forces people to pull partisan ballots even though many don’t want to.

Adriel Lam

“There’s only one other party” in his race, he said. “And meeting the 10 percent threshold, it’s just as much a challenge as competing with them for their nomination.”

Nonpartisan candidates occasionally advance to the general election, but none has won a race since at least 1992, the earliest year for which elections data is readily available online.

It’s easier for them to advance if the race also includes a minor party candidate, who is likely to get fewer votes. It’s almost impossible for a nonpartisan candidate to advance if the only other candidates are Democrats or Republicans.

Calvin Griffin, who’s running to represent urban Honolulu in the 1st Congressional District, is one of the few nonpartisan candidates who has cleared the primary hurdle. In 2016 he ran for the same office and got 4,381 votes in the general election. He received 552 votes in the primary, more than candidates from the Constitution and American Shopping parties.

Calvin Griffin

This is his fifth time running for elected office as a nonpartisan candidate.

That hasn’t been easy, but remaining independent is important to his political beliefs. He’s only been invited to one media-sponsored debate and said some people don’t even know that nonpartisan candidates are able to run for partisan offices.

“I’m not happy with the system with either party,” he said of Democrats and Republicans. “They don’t really encourage people who really want to be part of the solution.”

How It’s Done Elsewhere

California and Washington have tried to moderate partisan politics in general elections by switching to a top-two primary, in which the top two vote-getters in a race advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

The top-two primary is thought by experts to give minor party or nonpartisan candidates a better shot at winning, but also can result in two candidates from the same party facing off in the general election. That would be an especially likely result in Democrat-dominated Hawaii.

A portion of a 2018 primary sample ballot. Voters must pick a ballot from the choices in the top left column.

Screen shot

Civil Beat spoke to elections officials in Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and Wyoming to see how other states treat nonpartisan candidates for partisan offices.

Particulars vary by state, but nonpartisan candidates can advance to the general election ballot if they obtain a certain number of signatures from voters in their district.

The number of signatures required generally ranges from 500 to 1,500, but that varies depending on the level of office. Some states base the number of signatures off a fraction of the number of votes cast for a particular office in a prior election.

Hawaii only requires nonpartisan candidates to collect signatures from 25 registered voters — but that only gets them onto the primary ballot, typically a ticket to oblivion.

Joining A Party Out Of Necessity

Though it’s relatively easy to register as a nonpartisan candidate, some repeat contenders have grown discouraged and joined a party.

Michael Last, a Libertarian candidate for state House District 3 in Kona, ran as a nonpartisan candidate twice before joining the Libertarian Party. He made the switch because he felt he had no chance of advancing to the general election otherwise.

Michael Last

Voters he spoke to didn’t want to “waste their votes” by pulling a nonpartisan primary ballot, Last said.

He said he’s not running because he wants to hold office.

“The reason I’m running is to give you a choice,” he said. “If I didn’t run, whoever wins the Democratic primary would be sworn in.”

As for Kayes, he said he might consider running as a Republican next time.

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GOP Candidate Challenges Citizenship Ruling https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/08/gop-candidate-challenges-citizenship-ruling/ Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:01:22 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1293987 Sai Timoteo, the Republican state House District 43 candidate who was deemed ineligible to run because she was born in American Samoa and is not a U.S. citizen, is fighting back. On July 23, the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, acting on behalf of the Office of Elections, sent Timoteo a letter stating that she was […]

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Sai Timoteo, the Republican state House District 43 candidate who was deemed ineligible to run because she was born in American Samoa and is not a U.S. citizen, is fighting back.

On July 23, the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, acting on behalf of the Office of Elections, sent Timoteo a letter stating that she was a citizen of American Samoa and therefore not eligible to vote or run for state office. Scott Nago, chief of the elections office, issued a proclamation Friday saying Timoteo was no longer a candidate for office because she was not a qualified voter of her district.

On Monday, Timoteo objected to the state’s decision in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Valri Lei Kunimoto and requested that the office rescind the proclamation. Timoteo acknowledged to Civil Beat that she is not a U.S. citizen.

Sailau Timoteo was the lone Republican candidate running to represent HD 43.

Screenshot: votetimoteo.com

She pointed to a state law that says the state’s deadline to object to a candidate is 60 days prior to the primary election, which would have been in June. The same law also says Nago should file a legal complaint on the matter within seven days of objecting to a candidate’ eligibility to run. Court records do not indicate that he has done so yet.

Another section of the law, she wrote, requires the county clerk, who oversees voter registration, to reach out to voters who are under investigation regarding their eligibility to vote.

Timoteo noted in her letter that the note she received from the AG’s office did not specify who objected to her candidacy and pointed to a portion of the law that states the process taken to disqualify a candidate depends on who initiated the objection.

She asked to see documentation from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that warrants her disqualification.

“If she is being disqualified, then they need to follow this process,” said Hawaii GOP chair Shirlene Ostrov. “We’re stuck in limbo because that trigger (notifying the party) has never happened yet.”

The AG’s office maintains that the terms for disqualification don’t apply because Timoteo’s nomination papers were incomplete.

“Ms. Timoteo did not provide valid certification that she is a U.S. citizen because she is not, in fact, a U.S. citizen,” wrote Dana Viola, first deputy attorney general, in an email to Civil Beat.

Viola cited a state law that requires candidates to take an oath affirming that they legally qualify to run. The law goes on to state that nomination papers without the requirements will be voided.

The office conducted an independent investigation and confirmed that Timoteo was a U.S. national rather than a citizen, Viola wrote.

Democrats Stacelynn Kehaulani Eli and Michael Jesus Juarez are also running for the District 43 seat that is being vacated by Republican Rep. Andria Tupola, who is running for governor. There are only five Republicans in the House of Representatives, and Tupola had endorsed Timoteo’s candidacy.

Angela Kaaihue, who made headlines in 2016 as a congressional candidate for her derogatory remarks about people of Japanese ancestry and non-Christian faiths, is a nonpartisan candidate in the race. She would need to secure 10 percent of all votes cast in the race to advance to the general election, or as many votes as her winning Democratic competitor.

Read Timoteo’s full letter here:

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No Democratic Party Poll Watchers For Primary https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/08/no-democratic-party-poll-watchers-for-primary/ Mon, 06 Aug 2018 10:01:45 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1293434 Some Hawaii Democrats are upset that their state party has decided not to send poll watchers to observe precinct activities Saturday in the midst of contentious primary races. State law allows parties to nominate poll watchers to see whether precinct workers are doing everything by the book. Poll watchers also have access to the list […]

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Some Hawaii Democrats are upset that their state party has decided not to send poll watchers to observe precinct activities Saturday in the midst of contentious primary races.

State law allows parties to nominate poll watchers to see whether precinct workers are doing everything by the book. Poll watchers also have access to the list of who has voted, which allows them to notify other campaign workers if supporters of their candidate have not voted so they can be reminded to do so.

Amy Perruso, a state House District 46 candidate, tried submitting names of prospective poll workers twice because she was confused by the party’s initial denial of her request without explanation.

Hawaii Democratic Party 2018 convention held at the Hilton Waikaloa in Kona, Hawaii.

More than 200,000 Hawaii primary voters pulled Democratic ballots in 2016.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I was surprised because the primary is the most important election for the whole state,” Perruso said. Party leadership “should be making an effort to have increased transparency.”

Kealii Lopez, the recently elected state Democratic Party chair, said the issue was brought to her attention too late. In the future, she said prospective poll watchers would be contacted earlier. The party still intends to have poll watchers at the precincts for the Nov. 6 general election.

Lopez said she didn’t see any way that the party could properly train poll watchers in just a few weeks, and didn’t want the campaigns of some Democrats to benefit more than others. Poll watchers should be looking out for the interest of all Democrats, she said, and know boundaries when it comes to interacting with poll workers and respecting voters’ privacy.

“If my job wasn’t to make sure that things are fair and equitable … then by all means, I may say, ‘Anybody who wants to participate, go at it,’” Lopez said.

Margaret Wille, chair of the Big Island branch of the Democratic Party and a Hawaii County Council member, sees things differently.

Wille said she understood that most primary races of concern are Democrats against Democrats, and that Lopez has other election-related issues to prioritize.

Still, Wille noted that Democrats face candidates of other parties in nonpartisan races — such as for county council posts. She said anybody willing to be a poll watcher should be allowed to do so.

She said she submitted names of prospective poll watchers directly to the Office of Elections, but did not receive confirmation that those people were registered.

The elections office told Civil Beat Friday that no Democratic Party poll watchers will be on duty Saturday. No new names will be added, as August 1 was the deadline to submit names.

“To say it’s not important during the primary is a little bit short-sighted because there’s sort of a bigger picture in getting” poll watchers trained for the general election, Wille said.

It’s unclear whether the Democratic Party has sent poll watchers in previous primary elections, but 80 Republican poll watchers will be on duty for the upcoming primary, according to the Office of Elections.

This will be the first year that day-of-election registration debuts statewide. Perruso said poll watchers could be useful in ensuring the process goes smoothly.

“We need to have people who are not engaged in campaigns, but are watching how the process proceeds with an evaluative eye,” she said.

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Lack Of US Citizenship Trips Up GOP State House Candidate https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/08/lack-of-us-citizenship-trips-up-gop-state-house-candidate/ Thu, 02 Aug 2018 03:20:26 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1293023 Sailau Timoteo, a Republican candidate for House District 43, is ineligible to run because she is a citizen of American Samoa. American Samoans are considered U.S. nationals and can’t vote, even though the Honolulu Elections Division confirmed Wednesday that Timoteo is registered to vote in Hawaii. Timoteo was the only Republican candidate running to represent […]

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Sailau Timoteo, a Republican candidate for House District 43, is ineligible to run because she is a citizen of American Samoa.

American Samoans are considered U.S. nationals and can’t vote, even though the Honolulu Elections Division confirmed Wednesday that Timoteo is registered to vote in Hawaii.

Timoteo was the only Republican candidate running to represent the district that runs from Maili to Ewa Villages. Rep. Andria Tupola, who vacated the seat to run for governor, endorsed her candidacy.

Sailau Timoteo was the lone Republican candidate running to represent HD 43.

Screenshot: votetimoteo.com

When she was contacted by Civil Beat, Timoteo deferred to a written statement submitted jointly with Republican Party Chair Shirlene Ostrov.

In the statement, Timoteo said she grew up in Waianae and pays taxes.

“I learned about our freedoms and always thought I had the same right to participate in our democracy,” Timoteo said. “I never knew my ethnicity as an American from American Samoa gave me second-class status.”

Ostrov said Timoteo was being “deprived of her basic democratic rights because of discriminatory, colonial-era laws.”

The Hawaii Attorney General’s Office sent Timoteo a letter July 23, notifying her that citizens of American Samoa cannot run for state office and that her eligibility was under review.

The AG’s office confirmed Tuesday that it had been in contact with Timoteo, but would not comment further.

A Honolulu Elections Division official said it was cooperating with state officials and the AG’s office, but would not comment further.

Stacelynn Kehaulani Eli and Michael Jesus Juarez are competing in the district’s Democratic primary Aug. 11.

Angela Kaaihue, a candidate who made headlines for her derogatory remarks about people of Japanese ancestry and non-Christian faiths, is a nonpartisan candidate in the race. She would need to secure 10 percent of all votes in the race to advance to the general election, or as many votes as her winning democratic competitor.

Read the AG letter here:

Read the joint statement issued by Timoteo and the Republican Party here:

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A Surprise Challenge On The North Shore And Other Intriguing Senate Races https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/07/a-surprise-challenge-on-the-north-shore-and-other-intriguing-senate-races/ Tue, 31 Jul 2018 10:01:35 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1292083 Former state Sen. Clayton Hee surprised voters when he announced months ago that he would drop out of the governor’s race and challenge incumbent Sen. Gil Riviere in a fight for his old seat. They are the only candidates and both are Democrats, which means the race will be decided in the primary. Senate District 23 […]

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Former state Sen. Clayton Hee surprised voters when he announced months ago that he would drop out of the governor’s race and challenge incumbent Sen. Gil Riviere in a fight for his old seat.

They are the only candidates and both are Democrats, which means the race will be decided in the primary. Senate District 23 includes parts of Kaneohe, the North Shore and Central Oahu.

While the unexpected race is one to watch, some candidates in other Senate districts are getting shots at open seats as incumbents seek higher office.

Sen. Gil Riviere, left, and former Sen. Clayton Hee have both voted supported environmental measures.

Civil Beat

With Sen. Jill Tokuda running for lieutenant governor, Reps. Ken Ito and Jarrett Keohokalole are facing off in another winner-takes-all primary to represent Senate District 24, which includes parts of Kaneohe, Kailua, Heeia, Ahuimanu and Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Ito has represented his district since 1994, but Keohokalole has more money and House leadership support.

Sen. Josh Green, another LG candidate, is vacating his District 3 seat, which includes Kona and Kau. Hawaii County Councilman Dru Kanuha and former Councilwoman Brenda Ford will compete in the Democratic primary, with the winner facing Libertarian Michael Last in the general election.

North Shore Showdown

On the North Shore, incumbent Riviere is a Republican-turned-Democrat with a passion for environmental issues. Riviere, an Orange County, California, native who has lived in the district for nearly three decades, has represented the area in the House from 2010 to 2012 and in the Senate since 2014.

Riviere originally came to Hawaii after visiting the islands during a worldwide surf trip.

Hee, a Kaneohe-raised paniolo who’s spent 60 years in Windward Oahu, is seeking the Senate seat that he formerly held for a decade.

Riviere built his 2014 Senate campaign around opposition to North Shore development.

Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat

Hee represented Molokai in the state House from 1982 to 1984. He was a state senator from 1984 to 1988, a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from 1990 to 2002 and a state senator for District 23 from 2004 to 2014. Hee unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 2014 and weighed running for that office again this year after backing out of the governor’s race.

Hee endorsed Riviere after vacating his Senate seat in 2014 to run for LG.

Riviere “was the best of the bunch that was seeking the Senate seat, there’s no magic about that,” Hee said. “That’s all it is, the people who have asked me to run again have been disappointed with his record.”

Rivere questioned Hee’s motives in running for the Senate race after seeking higher office. Riviere has his own qualms with Hee’s record of community involvement as of late.

“I think the (District 23) senator really needs to be engaged and active and actually showing up,” Riviere said. “I think people appreciate having someone who’s always there for the community.”

Protecting lands zoned for agricultural use is a key issue for Rivere, as is getting a handle on illegal vacation homes.

High tourism numbers worsen traffic and wear down parks, beaches and trails, he said. The Hawaii Tourism Authority should be part of the solution, he said, adding that he had long advocated for additional funds for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Riviere pointed to a bill he introduced earlier this year that would have transferred some of HTA’s budget to DLNR if the number of visitor arrivals exceeded 9 million in a year.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to support this huge influx, so we need to take better control of our natural resources,” he said.

Clayton Hee takes a break with his horse for the day, Jimminy.

Clayton Hee with his horse, Jimminy, in 2014. The challenger has served two stints in the Senate for a total of 14 years, as well as terms in the House and on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Hee also cited environmental concerns among his main priorities and said he wanted to create a bypass road running through the North Shore area from Laniakea to Sunset Beach to ensure another travel option if roads become inundated.

“There’s no question that the sea level is rising — it’s already inundated many smaller (Micronesian) islands,” he said.

It’s important to ensure young people can stay in Hawaii, he said, noting a lack of good jobs and affordable housing. Hee, who introduced the bill to raise the minimum wage to its current level of $10.10 per hour, said he now supports raising it to $15 an hour and would introduce a bill to do so.

Riviere had $34,000 in his campaign fund, as of the latest June campaign finance report. He had received $14,000 and spent $10,000 this year.

Hee had about $100,000 as of June 30 and loaned himself $100,000 before dropping out of the governor’s race. He’s received $130,000 and spent $40,000 this year, though many of those expenditures and donations occurred before Hee switched races.

Rivere wasn’t shaken by his opponent’s money advantage.

“I’ve got all the money I need to deliver my message,” he said.

Hee has consistently held a progressive voting record. He has voted in favor of gun control, abortion rights, sex education and gay marriage.

Riviere voted against civil unions as a Republican. As a Democrat, he voted in favor of issues such as medical aid in dying, reducing marijuana possession penalties and allowing changes to gender on a birth certificate.

Open Seat On The Windward Shore

Keohokalole, a Native Hawaiian state representative whose  family has been in the islands for 500 years, assumed office in 2014. He’s lived in Kaneohe his whole life.

Sea level rise is already problematic during king tides, he said, and homelessness is an important issue on the Windward Shore, where he said it doesn’t get much attention.

Keohokalole said key issues such as the cost of housing can’t be neglected any longer.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Keohokalole pointed to the high cost of living on the Windward side of Oahu and said seniors on fixed incomes are hit particularly hard.

The median price of homes in Kailua is more than $1 million, according to data from real estate firm Locations.

Keohokalole hopes to bring an urgency to the office if elected.

“Now these issues are bubbling up into crises because we haven’t been paying attention, and now we have the political will because they’re top of mind in the community,” he said. “We can’t just throw money at these problems.”

Ito, a Kalihi native who’s lived in Kaneohe for 45 years, said he’s long heard younger candidates campaign on the promise of change and a lower cost of living.

“I see that kind of talk all these years and it’s not easy,” he said.

Ito said the state is underfunding its charter schools.

Suevon Lee/Civil Beat

An Air Force veteran, Ito noted that Senate District 24 includes the Marine Corps base. He said he understands military lingo, and the concerns of men and women in uniform.

Charter schools are important to the state representatives, a former teacher and House Education Committee chair. Charters are supposed to be places of innovation, he said, and need to be better funded in order to build or buy school facilities.

Charter schools receive less per pupil funding than other public schools. Many rent their buildings.

Ito said he wants to prevent the over-urbanization of Kaneohe.

Ito had $55,000 as of June 30. He had received $29,000 and spent $25,000 this year.

Keohokalole had $68,000 as of June 30. He’s received $49,000 and spent $36,000.

Keohokalole has maintained a more progressive voting record. Ito has generally voted along party lines on key votes, but has dissented on issues that involve guns, or gay and transgender rights.

Big Island Race Focuses On Health Care

Former Hawaii Council Councilwoman Brenda Ford and current Councilman Dru Kanuha will square off in the Democratic primary on the Big Island. Both cited housing and health care among their top priorities.

Brenda Ford

Ford is originally from California. She’s lived in Kona for more than two decades and spent eight of those years on the Hawaii County Council.

Ford said she opposed the commercialization of rural Kau and supported efforts to boost the number of Big Island health care professionals by establishing a local training program.

She stressed the need for affordable housing, and emergency shelters with camping huts for homeless individuals living on the street. People with mental health problems are more amenable to treatment once they’re off the street, she said.

“I’m very protective of the people on this island and I would be the same way in the state,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of.”

Ford has received a total of $4,000 from Rep. Richard Creagan and his wife, Marilyn. Creagan represents the area in the state House.

Dru Kanuha

Kanuha, who’s lived in Kona his whole life, is making his first run at a legislative seat. He said he’s seen changes to the landscape in his lifetime and wants to protect the environment from threats such as cesspools.

Kona is growing quickly, he said, and there’s a need for affordable housing.

He wants to secure funding for a new hospital in an underserved area, and increase access to health care by expanding the reach of professionals the state already has.

“Keeping our community healthy, to me, is the primary kuleana of government,” he said. “It’s especially important here in West Hawaii since this Senate seat is so big and encompasses such a large area.”

The primary winner will face Libertarian Michael Last in the general election.

Michael Last

Last, a New York native who’s lived in his district for 25 years, is retired from his work as an electrical engineer. He runs for public office often.

He wants to legalize gambling, stop forcing people to pay taxes and limit government assistance in events such as natural disasters — but that’s not why he’s running.

“If I wasn’t running, the Senate seat (District) 3 this year would be decided in the primary,” he said. “Giving them the choice means more to me than winning the seat.”

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Familiar Faces Return For Another Run At State House Seats https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/07/familiar-faces-return-for-another-run-at-state-house-seats/ Tue, 24 Jul 2018 10:01:32 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1291132 A couple of familiar faces are hoping to regain their former state House seats this year. In House District 44, former Rep. Jo Jordan, who held the seat for six years, is challenging Rep. Cedric Gates, who defeated her by just 240 votes in the 2016 primary. The district encompasses Waianae, Makaha, Makua and Maili. […]

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A couple of familiar faces are hoping to regain their former state House seats this year.

In House District 44, former Rep. Jo Jordan, who held the seat for six years, is challenging Rep. Cedric Gates, who defeated her by just 240 votes in the 2016 primary. The district encompasses Waianae, Makaha, Makua and Maili.

Former Rep. Rida Cabanilla is back to challenge two of her former constituents in a race for the House District 41 seat, which encompasses Ewa, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ewa Villages, Hoakalei and Ocean Pointe. Cabanilla will face fellow Democrat Lynn Robinson-Onderko in the primary and the winner will go against Republican Chris Fidelibus.

Jo Jordan and Cedric Gates both served on the neighborhood board before assuming the House seat.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

He’s not a former legislator, but another familiar face is running to represent Manoa in the House. Dale Kobayashi, who narrowly lost to incumbent Rep. Isaac Choy in the last primary, will face four primary opponents to replace the retiring Choy.

Back To The Future In Waianae

Gates ran as a Green Party candidate for the District 44 seat in 2014 and shouldn’t have been allowed to run as a Democrat for another three years, according to party rules. But party officials later said they didn’t catch the error in time and allowed his 2016 candidacy to stand.

Gates, 24, says his accomplishments will secure him another victory, but Jordan says she’s got the experience and track record to do the job.

“Just because I didn’t win my election in 2016 doesn’t mean I went home,” she said.

Jordan, who was born on the mainland but has spent almost her entire life in Waianae, said she knows how the Capitol works. She said she read all her emails and answered the phone personally as a lawmaker.

She expressed concerns about infrastructure issues and overdevelopment of Waianae.

Representative Jo Jordan speaks to reporters at the Waianae Boat Harbor. 19 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Jo Jordan is looking to regain her House seat on the Leeward Coast.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Jordan said she wanted to see more fiscal transparency and accountability in the state budget as a lawmaker. She introduced bills related to procurement and has a professional background in accounting and taxes.

Hawaii needs to diversify its economy, she said, adding the state shouldn’t rely so much on tourism and the military.

“How do we survive in an island state economy, so far away from another piece of land?” she said.

Jordan has spent $5,300, about $25,000 less than Gates has in the current election cycle.

Some of Gates’ campaign expenses appear to be for his office. Recent campaign finance reports show his campaign funds were spent on office cleaning supplies and drinking water, as well as airfare and housing for a National Conference of State Legislatures event. State law allows elected officials to use their campaign funds “for ordinary and necessary expenses” that they encounter as a result of their office.

Jordan, who has more than $20,000 in her account from when she was a lawmaker, said she will likely spend about $16,000 in the coming weeks.

“You run the same race over and over and … you don’t have to change your signs and stuff,” she said.

Gates, who was born and raised in Waianae, said the cost of living and traffic infrastructure are his top issues.

New Representative Cedric Asuega Gates during FIN mtg. Capitol. 10 jan 2017

Cedric Gates wants a second term in the House of Representatives.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gates said he helped secure funding to improve accessibility to Waianae, including $5 million to plan and conduct an environmental review to create a secondary access road that could eventually connect Waianae to Makakilo or Kunia.

He said he hoped to build on Waianae traffic mitigation programs and support similar initiatives in the future, and said he believed rooftop solar, as opposed to solar farms, could be a way to lower the cost of utilities while using available space.

“Being able to accomplish so much in my first term will send a clear message to the community that I am an effective legislator,” he said.

Gates has been fined by the Campaign Spending Commission four times this year for filing late reports and failing to report some contributions.

Many of his recent donors were lobbyists and political action committees. His donors over the past year include retired Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki, Majority Leader Della Au Belatti, House Speaker Scott Saiki and Jennifer Sabas, a well-connected lobbyist who served as the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye’s longtime chief of staff.

Ewa Encore For Cabanilla

Cabanilla represented House District 41 for a decade and was majority floor leader when fellow Democrat Matt LoPresti ousted her by 860 votes in 2014. Now LoPresti is leaving the post to seek a Senate seat.

Months before that election, Cabanilla came under media scrutiny for submitting a $200,000 grant request for the Ewa Historical Society. Cabanilla sat on the society’s board of directors and her son was vice president of the organization.

She also was cited for Campaign Spending Commission violations.

Cabanilla now says that she submitted the grant because she received so many calls about the condition of the Old Ewa Cemetery.

She noted that the state Ethics Commission later determined that she and her son would not have personally received any money through the grant.

Cabanilla retired from the army as a lieutenant colonel.

“I might have gone down because of it,” she said, but added, “at least somebody fixed the cemetery.”

Cabanilla, a native of the Philippines and a district resident since 1987, said she’s most concerned with homelessness. She supports tent cities with laundry machines and bathrooms, and said she still believes in a “return-to-home” program like the one she helped pass in 2013.

The state never moved forward with the program, which would have flown homeless people back to their families.

She said another of her priorities is to help young people get post-high school education to ensure they can make a living wage.

Why the return to politics?

“I got my 10 years, I got my pension,” Cabanilla said, adding she was ready to leave but was dismayed when she saw false information written about her online. “I think there’s a politician inside of me and there’s a desire to want to serve.”

Cabanilla will face fellow Democrat Lynn Robinson-Onderko in the primary.

Robinson-Onderko, a member of the local neighborhood board, is originally from Michigan but has resided in Ewa for 15 years. She’s been a community advocate and worked in former Sen. Will Espero’s office.

Lynn Robinson-Onderko

Her kids attend public schools, she said, and increasing funding for schools is her top priority. She pointed to problems with high teacher turnover and delays in campus maintenance.

It’s also important to diversify the economy, she said, adding she saw opportunity for Hawaii to grow tech, and media and film industries.

“I was out sign-waving this morning, we’ll be back sign-waving tomorrow,” Robinson-Onderko said. “We’re working, working, working.”

Robinson-Onderko has received donations from Belatti, lieutenant governor candidate Espero, and state Rep. Beth Fukumoto, who is running for Congress.

Chris Fidelibus

Cabanilla hasn’t reported any donations of more than $100. Gifts smaller than that don’t have to be reported.

The primary winner will face Republican Chris Fidelibus in the general election.

He’s lived in Ewa for 11 years and is a business owner.

Fidelibus, whose son goes to private school, said he would like to see better facilities for public schools, and create a friendlier business environment with fewer regulations and taxes.

“It’s not about Democrat, it’s not about Republican, it’s about what supports our district the best,” Fidelibus said.

Trying Again In Manoa

Rep. Isaac Choy is not seeking another term in District 23, which includes Manoa, Punahou, University and Moiliili.

All five candidates for the seat are Democrats who say they want to support the University of Hawaii’s flagship campus, which lies in the district. Many district residents are UH faculty members.

Dale Kobayashi is the only candidate who’s run for this seat before. The son of Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi lost in 2016 to Choy by just 70 votes.

Dale Kobayashi

Dale Kobayashi

Kobayashi, local neighborhood board chair, was raised in Manoa and lived on the mainland for more than 20 years after college.

He said he wants to ensure that UH Manoa is held accountable but also receives financial support. Kobayashi questioned whether people need investment properties and wants to look toward the existing housing stock to find affordable housing. 

Kobayashi noted his involvement in community efforts such as protecting Paradise Park, an abandoned zoo, from redevelopment.

“There’s just a lot of changes here in the valley,” he said. “It’s just not what we’re used to. It’s been so quiet and safe here and now you have monster homes coming up, vacation rentals.”

Among his donors are state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, who’s running for Congress, Councilwoman Kobayashi and Sabas.

Dylan Armstrong

Dylan Armstrong

Dylan Armstrong, a Portland native and seven-year resident in District 23, is an urban and environmental planner who once served on the neighborhood board. He said his platform is based on conversations with local residents.

He expressed interest in preparing infrastructure for climate change and ensuring fiscal efficiency by eliminating projects that aren’t benefiting anyone. Locals want to preserve the community and character of the valley, he said.

“Manoa is arguably one of the most well-connected, cohesive neighborhoods in all of Hawaii,” Armstrong said. “Even people who live here for decades say, ‘I’ve only lived here 40 years or I’ve only lived here for 25 years.’”

Elton Fukumoto

Choy donated $250 to Armstrong’s campaign.

Elton Fukumoto has lived in Manoa since 1961 after spending 15 years of his career on the mainland. He has worked as a legislative staffer and university educator, including a stint at UH Manoa.

He wants to see the university get more money to fix its facilities and retain top-notch staff. That could improve the economy and create conditions for startups to thrive, he said

Fukumoto, who lives with his parents, says he’s attuned to kupuna issues.

“I’m 65 years old and my parents are in their 90s and I’m having to confront all these issues,” he said.

Andrew Garrett

Tracy Wright Corvo

Andrew Garrett was born in Tokyo and moved to Mililani as a child. He’s lived in Manoa for a decade.

Garrett, who comes from a health care background, wants to see a better kupuna care plan in anticipation of the silver tsunami that isn’t a “hodge podge system” of nursing homes, foster homes and other services.

He said he wanted to offer UH Manoa more autonomy and support, and felt Choy’s frequent criticism of the university harmed its reputation and didn’t foster a productive relationship.

“I think it’s just time to reset the relationship there between the representative at Manoa and the university’s faculty,” Garrett said.

Garrett received $2,000, the maximum amount for a state House candidate, from state Rep. Roy Takumi.

Benton Rodden

Benton Rodden

Benton Rodden is a Seattle native who’s lived in the area for four years. He also wants to see more resources invested in public education.

He said homelessness seems to be the top complaint he’s heard from voters. He’s opposed to sit-lie bans, such as those established in Honolulu. Partnerships with nonprofits and private groups could help the state execute projects to create safe zones and provide mental health resources to homeless people, he said.

Rodden, who has taught political science at UH Manoa, credited his “enthusiastic, but somewhat apathetic” students for motivating him to run.

“I think that we need to start demonstrating that voting is a way to solve problems,” he said.

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L’Heureux Makes His Case As Series Of Candidate Events Kicks Off https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/07/lheureux-makes-his-case-as-series-of-candidate-events-kicks-off/ Fri, 20 Jul 2018 07:32:31 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1291038 Ray L’Heureux wasn’t planning on running for governor. He started campaigning later than his Republican primary opponents, state Rep. Andria Tupola and John Carroll. But it seemed to him that they represented variations on Hawaii’s status quo, he said Thursday evening during the first in a series of Civil Beat “Know Your Candidates” events at […]

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Ray L’Heureux wasn’t planning on running for governor. He started campaigning later than his Republican primary opponents, state Rep. Andria Tupola and John Carroll.

But it seemed to him that they represented variations on Hawaii’s status quo, he said Thursday evening during the first in a series of Civil Beat “Know Your Candidates” events at Hawaii Pacific University’s Aloha Tower Marketplace Campus. Several additional gubernatorial candidates will sit down for in-depth question-and-answer sessions, the next being Carroll on Tuesday at 6 p.m.  

L’Heureux told the audience watching in person and on Civil Beat’s livestream that while he wasn’t a fan of his Republican opponents, he doesn’t believe that Hawaii needs more Democratic leaders.

Republican Ray L’Heureux says education is his top priority.

Bianca Smallwood/Civil Beat

“Six decades of Democratic rule really hasn’t done us all that well,” said L’Heureux, sporting an aloha shirt with elephants.

L’Heureux, 56, said he’s a firm believer in smaller government, strong defense and family values.

He envisions a Hawaii where students can graduate high school or college and have the opportunity to hold a good job in the tech sector. He wants to see a stronger, more vibrant economy that’s not afflicted by brain drain.

L’Heureux previously served as an assistant school superintendent and Marine lieutenant colonel. He still has a lot to say about education — it’s the top priority listed on his campaign web site.

He’s a big proponent of school empowerment — giving teachers and principals the autonomy to make their own decisions in the classroom. He said he worries about inequities in the school system and sympathizes with teachers weary of short-lived reform initiatives.

A one-size-fits-all schools model doesn’t actually fit anyone, he said.

“I would say that there are high-performing schools in this district, there are great teachers, great principals … but the system is failing our kids,” he said.

Still, he said he opposed the proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November asking voters whether they want to raise taxes on investment properties worth at least $1 million to fund public schools.

If approved, the property tax increase would be passed on to renters, L’Heureux said.

“We are the most taxed electorate in the nation and what are we getting for it?” he said.

The Race For Governor

L’Heureux also spoke about a need to diversify the economy, incentivize businesses and build a bigger tech sector in Hawaii.

Among the other topics he addressed:

• Homelessness: The situation doesn’t seem to be getting much better despite an overall lower count of the population earlier this year, he said. It’s important to pair other services with housing to help people actually escape from homelessness, L’Heureux said.

“We can’t just put roofs over their head and call it a day,” he said.

• Climate change: He said there definitely seem to be some adverse environmental impacts that are man-made, but added that the “planet has a natural disposition to change.”

• The Jones Act: L’Heureau denounced the federal law that requires U.S. goods to be shipped on U.S. vessels. The law is often cited as a big contributor to Hawaii’s high cost of living.

The law is outdated, L’Heureux said, and many of its provisions need to be repealed or relaxed.

“Today in 2018, it makes absolutely no sense,” he said.

• The Thirty Meter Telescope: Build the controversial project atop Mauna Kea as quickly as possible, he said, adding the state has bungled some management responsibilities on the Big Island mountain and could have been more culturally sensitive.

• Donald Trump: Asked about his opinion of President Trump, L’Heureux said the North Korea summit was an indication of his peacemaking abilities.

L’Heureux has raised $620 and loaned himself $2,800 this year, campaign finance reports show. He’s spent $2,800.

His opponents have raised more. Tupola has spent $260,000 and raised $264,000 since she was re-elected to the Legislature in 2016. Carroll has spent $40,000 and raised $43,000 since July 2017.

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Here’s Why These Rookie Candidates Decided To Get Into Politics https://www.civilbeat.org/2018/07/heres-why-these-rookie-candidates-decided-to-get-into-politics/ Thu, 19 Jul 2018 10:01:19 +0000 https://www.civilbeat.org/?p=1290469 Why would anyone want to enter politics in today’s hyper-polarized environment? Civil Beat set out to answer that question by interviewing eight candidates who hadn’t run for elected office before this year. They said they were lured by issues like Hawaii’s high cost of living, climate change, a desire for lower taxes and the need for […]

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Why would anyone want to enter politics in today’s hyper-polarized environment?

Civil Beat set out to answer that question by interviewing eight candidates who hadn’t run for elected office before this year. They said they were lured by issues like Hawaii’s high cost of living, climate change, a desire for lower taxes and the need for more efficient and transparent government.

And while those are subjects longtime politicians frequently cite as well, new blood might be the key to actually addressing them, some newcomers say.

Zachary Stoddard CIty Council candidate 2018 elections stands and waves at Punchbowl and Beretania Street.

Zack Stoddard, a 31-year-old City Council candidate, works as a city planner.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Anti-abortion candidate Andrew Kayes, a nonpartisan candidate for the state House seat that covers the greater Kahului area, decided to pull papers after the Legislature passed a bill to legalize medical aid in dying, which he opposes.

Others say politicians have stopped listening to the constituents who elected them.

“I’ve just been frustrated with politicians and how they don’t seem to really care at all about working-class people,” said Zack Stoddard, a candidate for Honolulu City Council District 6 that stretches from Makiki to Kalihi. “That’s essentially the number one thing I hear from people.”

Stoddard isn’t a total stranger to local politics. Last year he was appointed to the neighborhood board for the Nuuanu and Punchbowl areas. He volunteered to fill a vacancy for the seat that represents his community during the first board meeting he attended.

He decided to run for the City Council after the District 6 incumbent, Carol Fukunaga, killed a bill to ban styrofoam food containers.

Stoddard said he was concerned about the influence of money in politics. He was one of a few new candidates interviewed by Civil Beat who said they are declining donations and paying their own way.

But Tina Wildberger, a progressive socialist Democrat who’s running to represent the state House seat district that covers Kihei to Wailea-Makena, has a different philosophy about campaign finance.

“I feel like if the people that know about me, care about me, and the people in my community don’t want to support my campaign, I don’t have any business being in that office,” she said.

Wildberger, who advocated for environmental issues and managed Kelly King’s successful campaign for a Maui County Council post, said her run was partly inspired by the #MeToo movement, the Parkland, Florida, school shootings and women’s marches.

In a way, Wildberger got in the race by accident. She had approached Rep. Kaniela Ing, a congressional candidate who will soon vacate the district Wildberger is running to represent, to pick his brain. Wildberger was still weighing a run when she got a call from a reporter who said Ing had endorsed her.

“If we were not experiencing the systematic dismantling of our democratic and environmental protections and protections against women … I don’t know that I would’ve been motivated this much to run,” she said.

Fresh Faces

Some other first-time candidates got into their races without any political experience.

Kelly Kitashima, a candidate running to represent Honolulu City Council District 8 that spans Aiea, Pearl City and Waipahu, became politically engaged when she was promoted to higher management at the hotel where she worked. She opposed efforts to increase taxes on the state’s tourism industry and began submitting testimony to officials.

Kitashima said she found a council run appealing because the office handles topics such as rail, infrastructure and property taxes — issues that affect people’s everyday lives.

Kitashima, whose kids play sports, was frustrated with the state of local fields.

Kelly Kitashima

“I am a mom, and I know it sounds so repetitive, but I’m just deathly afraid that my kids won’t be able to live here,” Kitashima said. “It kind of felt like I had to roll up my sleeves and step up.”

Kitashima, a self-described “local girl,” said she started tuning into politics when Donald Trump became president.

“I definitely would say I became a little bit more vigilant that year,” she said, adding there was “more media coverage around politics that you couldn’t ignore.”

Kayes, the candidate for Kahului’s House seat, is also new to politics. He said Hawaii’s political atmosphere is an echo chamber for Democrats. The pro-life physician was vehemently opposed to the medical aid in dying law passed by the Legislature last session.

“I felt like our state was better than this, and I was shocked and I pulled papers within a week of that happening,” he said.

Donald Trump’s ‘Silver Lining’

Many new candidates disagree with President Trump’s politics, but said it’s a good thing that more people who aren’t career politicians have started running for office.

“The silver lining of this administration is that he made (running for office) so accessible to the everyday person that we realized we don’t have to have a Harvard law degree to run for office, we need community members,” said Natalia Hussey-Burdick, a Democratic candidate for a House seat in the Kaneohe area.

Hussey-Burdick has quite a bit of political experience for a first-timer — the 28-year-old has served as a community advocate and legislative clerk and held positions in the Democratic Party.

Natalia Hussey-Burdick says she sees another side to politics as a legislative clerk.

Natalia Hussey-Burdick

A self-described “political nerd,” said she had always felt she was too opinionated and unpolished to run for office.

She changed her mind after attending the Kuleana Academy bootcamp hosted by the nonprofit Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action. It’s free for prospective candidates or their staff members, but attendees who end up running are expected to fundraise and donate $1,000 to HAPA.

State Sens. Laura Thielen, Russell Ruderman and Donna Mercado Kim and Reps. Gene Ward, Andria Tupola, Nicole Lowen and Matt LoPresti spoke at the program Hussey-Burdick attended.

Democratic Party executive director Laura Nevitt told the participants that “women will give themselves 100 reasons why they shouldn’t” run for office. That resonated with Hussey-Burdick.

Choon James, a longtime testifier at the Honolulu City Council and now a candidate to represent District 2 on the North Shore, decided to run because she wasn’t happy with the way the field of candidates was shaping up to replace term-limited Councilman Ernie Martin.

It also helped that her kids moved out of the house.

James has been involved in environmental issues and the North Shore’s push to “Keep the Country Country.” She supports term limits for elected offices and caps on homeowners’ property taxes if they’ve lived on the property for 15 years.

She’s not looking to run again if she loses.

“I can say as a citizen candidate I honestly have no fear and I have no favor,” she said. “I’m getting old and I’m getting impatient.”

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The post Here’s Why These Rookie Candidates Decided To Get Into Politics appeared first on Honolulu Civil Beat.

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