A section of Hawaii island running from the northwest slopes of Mauna Kea through the town of Waimea and out to Hawi would constitute a new district for the Big Island’s eighth seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

The island is gaining a House seat and Oahu is losing one because the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted last week to extract more than 100,000 non-permanent resident military and college students from population counts used to redraw legislative boundaries.

That required the commission to redraw legislative boundaries in the state. Those new maps were posted on the commission’s website on Tuesday.

The Big Island’s newest House district would cover Waimea and parts of Kohala. New legislative maps also open the way for a new lawmaker to win an open seat in Kona. Screenshot

The commission will take up the new maps at a meeting scheduled for Thursday. The commission plans to take public input before it makes final decisions on the maps. The Hawaii Supreme Court gave the commission until Feb. 27 to finalize the maps.

A House seat in urban Honolulu currently held by Rep. Sylvia Luke, who is running for lieutenant governor and will not seek reelection, would be dissolved and split between nearby House districts. The commission’s previous proposals sought to create a new House district in Ewa, where population grew the most on Oahu in the last decade.

Instead, the Big Island will gain the new House seat. There would be no change in the number of Senate seats on each island.

While the Big Island would gain a new House district, the new maps would keep all of the seven incumbent lawmakers separated from one another.

However, the way the new lines are drawn would open up a seat in a House district that stretches from Kailua-Kona down to Honaunau.

That may represent an opportunity for the Hawaii Republican Party. Years ago, the more urban areas of Kailua-Kona were represented by Republicans.

Political Fallout

However, the GOP may lose ground on Oahu.

The new maps may force several House incumbents on Oahu to run against each other in elections this year. Previous iterations of the redistricting maps sought to avoid those conflicts.

The latest maps would lump Republican Rep. Lauren Matsumoto and House Minority Leader Val Okimoto together in the same Mililani district.

At first glance that appears to be a blow to the Hawaii Republican Party, which holds just four seats in the 51-member House and a single seat in the 25-member Senate.

However, Okimoto has told some of her political allies she does not plan to run for re-election, and instead intends to run for a seat on the Honolulu City Council representing parts of Central Oahu.

Representative Val Okimoto during crossover.
New legislative maps would pit House Minority Leader Val Okimoto, pictured, against Republican Rep. Lauren Matsumoto. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Okimoto’s political intentions were taken into account in the latest draft of the maps, according to a source familiar with her plans.

In a written statement Tuesday evening, Okimoto said “the latest draft of the reapportionment maps are a disappointment, but my team and I are still very optimistic and excited for the legislative session.”

“I plan to discuss the circumstances with my team and the community members to determine how I can best serve them moving forward. I am looking at all options, at this point. My focus has and will always be to do what is in the best interest of the community,” Okimoto said in the statement.

The new maps would also package Democratic Rep. Ernesto Sonny Ganaden into the same House district as Rep. Daniel Holt, also a Democrat.

Holt declined to comment Tuesday, other than to say that “we all have hope for a redraw.”

Earlier this year, Holt said he was prepared to move if necessary so that he can continue to represent as many neighborhoods as possible from his current district, which includes Kalihi, Palama, Iwilei and Chinatown.

Ganaden currently represents the area from Kalihi Kai and Sand Island to Hickam, Pearl Harbor, Ford Island and Halawa Valley Estate.

Other Democrats who would also be lumped together in the same district under the new proposed maps are longtime Rep. Roy Takumi and Rep. Gregg Takayama, who both represent the Pearl City area.

Takumi did not return a phone message Tuesday.

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