Bids for state Senate await representatives leaving seats
Although three members of the state House will not seek re-election to their current office, that does not mean they want to leave the Legislature altogether. Reps. Dwight Takamine, Josh Green and Alex Sonson, all Democrats, instead hope to open the 2009 legislative session as members of the Senate.
Five state lawmakers have said they do not plan to seek re-election to their current seats. They are:
Sen. Lorraine Inouye, Democrat, 1st Senate District, Hilo-Honokaa. Plans to run for Big Island mayor.
Sen. Paul Whalen, Republican, 3rd Senate District, Milolii-Waimea. No plans announced.
Rep. Dwight Takamine, Democrat, 1st House District, Hawi-Hilo. Plans to run for 1st Senate District seat.
Rep. Josh Green, Democrat, 6th House District, Keauhou-Honokohau. Plans to run for 3rd Senate District seat.
Rep. Alex Sonson, Democrat, 35th House District, Pearl City-Waipahu. Plans to challenge Sen. Clarence Nishihara for the 18th Senate District seat, Waipahu-Pearl City.
Takamine and Green are pursuing the only two Senate impending vacancies -- the seats held by Democratic Sen. Lorraine Inouye in Hilo and Republican Sen. Paul Whalen in Kona, respectively.
As the 2008 session came to a close Thursday, departing members said thanks to their colleagues while looking ahead to meeting again in different capacities.
"It's really quite incredible to have this last moment to look at you and realize the next U.S. senator is probably going to come from here, or the next governor," Green said in his farewell speech to House members.
Green has been campaigning since last summer and has raised a sizable amount of money -- $101,000 as of March -- before Whalen announced Feb. 29 that he would not seek re-election to represent the Milolii-Waimea Senate District.
Whalen has not announced what his plans are. He was absent from the floor as the Senate session drew to a close Thursday night.
Inouye said goodbye as fellow senators gave her a standing ovation. She plans to run for Big Island mayor, a post she held for two years in the 1990s.
In an emotional speech, Inouye said she and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa were the only two senators left from the group that came in as freshmen in 1998.
Inouye added that when she arrived there were five women in the Senate -- today there are seven -- but in her district, either she or former Sen. Malama Solomon represented the 1st Senate District for 25 years.
Takamine, who held his Hawi-Hilo House District seat for 24 years, seeks to replace Inouye.
His departure from the House leaves open the seat representing the 1st District, which has been held by either Takamine or his father, Yoshito Takamine, since statehood.
"He had a sense of optimism about the future -- about the future of this body, about the future of this institution," Dwight Takamine said of his father. "As I leave this chamber, I have that same sense of optimism."
Sonson plans to challenge Sen. Clarence Nishihara in the Democratic primary election to represent the Waipahu-Pearl City Senate District.
Sonson, known for his irreverence and self-deprecating sense of humor, said: "I'm honored to speak before you for the last time.
"I know some of you are saying, 'Yeah, great! Well, I'm also honored to hear you for the last time.'"