Intriguing matchups mark remaining Legislative races
After a primary election that featured a record number of unopposed races in the state Legislature, this fall's matchups likely will generate some sparks, with roughly half of the open seats in both chambers being contested.
Of the 12 Senate seats in play, seven are being decided on Nov. 4. In the House, 27 of the 51 seats are up for grabs.
Already 25 Democrats are set to take their oath of office next year, a result of having no Republican opposition.
Of the eight Republican incumbents seeking re-election, only two face no opposition in the general election.
"In Hawaii, we'll always have an uphill climb," said House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan (R, Foster Village-Mapunapuna), one of the two unopposed Republicans. The other is Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kaneohe-Kailua).
"I think the message (to voters) is that in state government, here in the Legislature, we certainly need more balance," Finnegan added. "It always comes down to that. If you don't like what's happening in the Legislature, then what you need to do is get more Republicans into the Legislature."
Democrats, who now control 21 out of the 25 Senate seats and 44 out of the 51 House slots, would discourage that.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, at yesterday's Democratic Unity Breakfast, urged the party faithful to get out the vote and try to return the Senate to the makeup it once had of 23 Democrats and two Republicans.
In one key race, Brickwood Galuteria, the former Democratic Party chairman, is challenging Sen. Gordon Trimble for his Downtown-Waikiki district seat.
"We are counting on Brickwood," Hanabusa said.
GOP Sen. Paul Whalen decided against seeking re-election. Democrat Josh Green, who gave up his House seat, won the Milolii-Waimea seat in the primary and has no opposition in November.
Both parties are paying attention to a couple of House races, too.
In District 51, Lanikai-Waimanalo, observers are watching the race to succeed Tommy Waters, pitting newcomer Chris Lee against well-funded former House Republican leader Quentin Kawananakoa.
"I think it's going to be the ultimate test of grass roots versus money," said Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz.
Lee, an office manager this past session for Rep. Della Au Belatti, won a three-way primary.
"There's a lot of challenges that need to be met, but if I work hard and hope for the best I think everything will be all right," Lee said. "Getting our next generation involved in local politics is going to be critical to the coming years and that's something I'm hoping to do -- I'm hoping to engage younger people to get involved."
Republicans also have high hopes for taking the seat.
"We know there's some great races that are going to occur," said state GOP Chairman Willes Lee. "We're looking in particular in Waimanalo with Quentin Kawananakoa."
Another House race of interest is in Central Oahu, where incumbent Democrat Rida Cabanilla is facing off against Republican Tom Berg, who had been her legislative office manager for three years before being dismissed earlier this year.
Berg was let go after it was learned that he was a supporter of the effort to stop the county's proposed $4 billion rail transit project, which Cabanilla supports.
"This is the office of District 42, I am your boss, your job is to support the things that I believe in," Cabanilla said of Berg's dismissal. "You are not to have your own private agenda and that's what he did."
Cabanilla, who has represented the Waipahu-Ewa district since 2004, said she believes it is solidly Democratic and will support her in November.
"They know that I work hard and my heart is with them," she said.
With nine years of experience as a legislative aide, Berg said he believes he is the better candidate, adding that he also believes partisanship will not play much of a factor in the race.
"Our district has wholeheartedly supported Gov. Lingle and this administration," he said. "I think a lot of people will take the party labels off of themselves and vote for the best candidate."
Legislative seats up for grabs
A look at the contested races in the state Legislature in the Nov. 4 general election. In each district, the Democratic candidate is listed first, followed by the Republican except where noted. (i) denotes incumbent.
Clifton Tsuji (i)
Faye Hanohano (i)
Cindy Evans (i)
Ronald Dela Cruz
Bob Nakasone (i)
Angus McKelvey (i)
Joe Bertram (i)
Kyle Yamashita (i)
17th, Kalama Val-Hawaii Kai
Amy Yukiko Monk
Gene Ward (i)
19th, Kalani Val-Diamond Hd
Barbara Marumoto (i)
20th, St. Louis-Wil.-Palolo
Calvin Say (i)
23rd, Waikiki-Ala Moana
Tom Brower (i)
Sesnita Der-Ling Moepono
Corinne Ching (i)
Joey Manahan (i)
Shane D.K. Yaw
35th, Pearl City-Waipahu
Henry James C. Aquino
Steven Bolosan Antonio
Marilyn Lee (i)
Sharon Har (i)
Rida Cabanilla (i)
43rd, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Pt.
Kymberly Pine (i)
Maile Shimabukuro (i)
Michael Magaoay (i)
Colleen Meyer (i)
Roz Baker (i)
6th, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai
J. Kalani English (i)
John Blumer-Buell, Independent
Gary Hooser (i)
Gordon Trimble (i)
Colleen Hanabusa (i)
Clayton Hee (i)