STAR-BULLETIN / JANUARY 2006
The 2006 session of the state Legislature kicked off Jan. 18 in the House chamber with the traditionally colorful ceremonies and entertainment, including this performance by the Kauai Filipino Centennial Chorale.
Incumbents facing robust competition
Both Democrats and Republicans see the contests as healthy signs for their parties
Both Republican and Demo-cratic incumbents are finding challengers in this year's legislative races.
While nothing draws an ambitious politician like an open seat, this year there are 26 primary races.
Democrats have 12 House races and four Senate primaries, while Republicans have seven House primary fights and three Senate races.
These incumbent legislators are running unopposed:
2nd District: Russell S. Kokubun (D)
8th District: Sam Slom (R)
10th District: Brian Taniguchi (D)
14th District: Donna Mercado Kim (D)
15th District: Norman Sakamoto (D)
1st District: Dwight Y. Takamine (D)
6th District: Josh Green (D)
14th District: Hermina Morita (D)
34th District: K. Mark Takai (D)
47th District: Colleen Meyer (R)
50th District: Cynthia Thielen (R)
Republican Gov. Linda Lingle said the unusually high number of GOP primary contests is good news for her minority party because it shows that candidates are willing to fight to wear the GOP label.
Mike McCartney, the Democratic chairman, also said the primary races are signs of a healthy interest.
On Maui, Senate Democrats are in a repeat match as Sen. Shan Tsutsui (D, Wailuku-Kahului) faces off against Jan Yagi Buen, the former senator whom Tsutsui defeated four years ago.
On Oahu, in the Kapahulu-Palolo district, Democrat Les Ihara is being challenged by Board of Education Chairman Randall Yee. Yee is running as a Democrat and is the son of longtime Republican leader Wadsworth Yee.
On the Republican side, there is a strong primary race expected between Keoki Leong and Tom Pico for the Kaneohe-Kailua district seat that is being vacated by Bob Hogue.
In the state House, four incumbents face primary challenges, including the two newest members of the chamber.
Reps. Bev Harbin (D, Kakaako-Downtown) and Anne Stevens (R, Waikiki-Ala Moana) were appointed by Gov. Linda Lingle last year to fill vacancies created by Ken Hiraki, who took a private-sector job, and Galen Fox, who resigned after being convicted of molesting a woman on an airplane.
Harbin faces a challenge from attorney Karl Rhoads and Carlton Middleton.
The challengers have criticized Harbin for moving into the district and joining the party only upon Hiraki's resignation. Both say they believe they know the district better than Harbin because they have lived there longer, Rhoads for 10 years and Middleton for 25.
Stevens faces GOP opposition from substitute teacher and hotel worker Mike Peters, who has criticized Stevens' voting record and called his views more in line with those of party leadership.
Other incumbents facing primary opposition are Michael Kahikina (D, Nanakuli), who is running against Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Cynthia Rezentes; and Kam Tanaka (D, Olowalu-Kapalua), who is being challenged by Angus McKelvey.
Voters will be selecting new representatives in eight districts where incumbents have decided to not seek re-election.
Among the more prominent races is the campaign to fill the Tantalus-Makiki seat being vacated by Brian Schatz, who resigned to run for Congress.
Former Campaign Spending Commissioner Della Au Belatti, Makiki Neighborhood Board Chairman John Steelquist and Joy Matsuda Turbeville are vying for the Democratic nomination. Tracy Okubo, who lost to Schatz in 2004, is unopposed on the GOP side.
Other incumbents who have given up their seats are Reps. Felipe Abinsay (D, Kalihi-Kapalama), Dennis Arakaki (D, Alewa Heights-Kalihi), Helene Hale (D, Pahoa-Kalapana) and Chris Halford (R, Makena-Kihei); and Reps. Ezra Kanoho (D, Wailua-Koloa), Bertha Kawakami (D, Niihau-Poipu-Kokee) and Bud Stonebraker (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai).