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Wednesday, November 3, 2004



[ BOARD OF EDUCATION ]

Lingle’s picks for BOE
fall short as Heftel
and Ahu Isa win

Former U.S. Rep. Cec Heftel and former state Rep. Lei Ahu Isa won seats on the state Board of Education yesterday as well-known personalities dominated the election and Gov. Linda Lingle's slate went down in defeat.

Election 2004
GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS

GENERAL ELECTION GUIDE

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"I think Cec and I -- you'll really see a difference in the way the board will be run, because we're both very independent people," Ahu Isa said. "Because we have legislative experience, we bring a lot to the table, a different perspective."

Education was a top issue at the Legislature this year, and the normally low-key school board attracted some high-profile candidates and more attention than usual. Seven seats on the 13-member board were up for grabs, with two incumbents stepping down.

"I thought I'd give Cec Heftel a chance," Jamie Yamashita, who lives at Kalawahine Hawaiian Homestead, said after casting her vote yesterday afternoon. "He can be impartial. He doesn't need anybody's money or influence."

The school board is nonpartisan, but Lingle endorsed five candidates as part of her push to break up the school board into multiple districts. Only two of them advanced to the general election, and both lost last night.

Chairman Breene Harimoto, first elected two years ago, easily won re-election to the Leeward Oahu seat over Shad Kane, a retired police officer backed by the governor.

"I'm just so thankful that I'm able to continue serving on the board," Harimoto said. "We've started a lot of good things, and I'm excited that we can continue."

Heftel, 80, topped the vote tally in the race for three Oahu at-large slots, followed by incumbent Garrett Toguchi and Ahu Isa, who each earned a spot on the board. Robert Midkiff, president of the Atherton Family Foundation, attorney Darwin Ching, who was endorsed by Lingle, and Hawaiian cultural consultant Guy Kaulukukui fell short.

"I'm hopeful that the votes reflect a determination by the people that they want their money to go to the schools, managed by the principals, for the benefit of the classroom," Heftel said last night.

Ching said he would continue to advocate for decentralization of the school system.

"I think it was important that I run to get the message out, looking at the issues rather than just the names," he said.

Two former board members failed in their bids to make a comeback after being out of office for a while. In the Honolulu district, 16-year board veteran Denise Matsumoto handily defeated former board member Keith Sakata. On Kauai, retired Principal Margaret "Maggie" Cox bested former board member Mitsugi "Mits" Nakashima.

Big Island incumbent Herbert Watanabe, a former teacher and administrator, won a third term over first-time challenger Nadia Davies-Quintana.

All the winning candidates were endorsed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association. Dotty Nitta, a teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, followed the union's recommendations.

"They know the issues and I trust their judgment," Nitta said as she tucked a frisky little dog into her bag before casting her ballot.

Despite the high-profile names on the ballot this year, Board of Education races still did not ring bells for some voters. Roughly one out of four voters left that portion of the ballot blank.

A precinct official at Roosevelt High School, who was too sheepish to give her name, said she voted for Board of Education candidates on her absentee ballot, but her choices have already slipped her mind.

"I always vote in every race," she said, "but I don't remember who I chose for Board of Education."

State Elections Office
www.hawaii.gov/elections
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