Walter Ritte, a Native Hawaiian activist who has led movements to stop bombing Kahoolawe and halting construction on Mauna Kea, announced his run for House District 13 Wednesday afternoon.
Ritte, of Molokai, says he will prioritize initiatives to support cultural and environmental protection, education, food security and agriculture. He plans to run as a Democrat.
“I’ve been asking Hawaiians to register to vote, and they keep saying ‘Well, who we going vote for?'” Ritte said. “If I’m asking people to vote, then maybe I should get in and give them a reason to vote.”
House District 13 is currently represented by Lynn DeCoite, who runs a farm on Molokai.
In the late 1970s, Ritte was one of the Kahoolawe Nine, a group of activists who successfully halted the U.S. Navy’s bombing of Kahoolawe. The movement also gave birth to the modern Hawaiian renaissance and ignited a greater level of cultural awareness, activism and environmental protection.
More recently, Ritte has been one of the kupuna leading resistance to the Thirty Meter Telescope being built on Mauna Kea.
Besides environmental and cultural protections, Ritte says he hopes to help Molokai by representing it in the 51-member House.
“I want to see how I can get things done in the system,” Ritte said.
He wants to get government to consider the concept of Aloha Aina, which puts traditional concepts of caring for the land in a modern context, in their decision making.
As of Wednesday evening, Ritte had not yet filed candidate papers with the state Office of Elections or filed candidate committee paperwork with the Campaign Spending Commission.
Asked how he would work with members of the House if he’s elected, Ritte said he’s easy to work with.
“But I’m going to have a whole different attitude,” he said. “I have no idea how they’ll accept me.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell