Dems retain strong
control of state
But one Democratic senatorBy Craig Gima
said the close races
sent a message
Republicans came close in several races but weren't smoking any cigars on election night.
In the end a powerful grass-roots effort and Cayetano coattails kept a strong Democratic majority in the state House and Senate.
At least one Democratic leader in the Legislature said the close races and the strength of Republicans in the primary election sent a message.
"They (voters) gave us one more chance," said Sen. Mike McCartney (D, Kaneohe), who did not run for re-election this year. "We have a lot of work to do if we're going to translate that into results."
"It was sort of a wake-up call for Democrats," said Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Waialae-Iki). "It was a rude awakening."
It may also have been a rude awakening for Republicans, who had hoped to increase their numbers from 12 to 18 in the House and pick up a few seats in the Senate. Instead, Republicans did not gain any seats in the Senate and House.
"Who knows? Wasn't this a year for change?" lamented Republican candidate Corinne Ching, who lost to Rep. Lei Ahu Isa (D, Alewa Heights-Nuuanu) by just a handful of votes.
Only three incumbents lost their bids for re-election last night. Republican Emily Auwae, a customer service representative, beat Rep. Merwyn Jones (D, Waianae); and Democrat Brian Schatz, 25-year-old president of Youth for Environmental Services, unseated Rep. Sam Aiona (R, Makiki). Former Big Island Councilman Jim Rath defeated Rep. David Tarnas (D, South Kohala-North Kona).
Republicans also lost the seat vacated by Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa (R, Pauoa) when Democrat Sylvia Luke beat Chris Dawson.
There will be six new senators and six freshmen representatives when the 1999 Legislature convenes because of open seats and the defeat of five incumbent senators in the Democratic primary.
On the neighbor islands, Democrat David Matsuura won the seat once held by his late father, Sen. Richard Matsuura, in Hilo; and former Big Island Mayor Lorraine Inouye won Sen. Malama Solomon's seat over former Sen. John Carroll.
On Kauai, Republican Robert Measel was defeated by Jonathan Chun, who had bested Sen. Lehua Fernandes Salling (D, Lihue) in the primary. On Maui, Jan Buen beat Republican John Corboy.
In Waianae, Colleen Hanabusa, who defeated Democratic incumbent Sen. James Aki (D, Waianae), won over her Republican opponent, Dicky Johnson. Former Rep. Bob Nakata slid past Republican Joe Pickard in the battle for Sen. McCartney's seat in Kaneohe.
McCartney said the defeat of Democrats in the primary and the election of new Democrats show his party is capable of redefining itself. "The Democratic Party has hope because it can change from within," he said.
McCartney said the addition of six new Democratic senators will lead to changes in the way the Senate operates next year.
However, he expects Senate President Norman Mizuguchi to remain in power if Mizuguchi can reach agreement with his coalition members to make the Senate more responsive to the public.
House Speaker Joe Souki, who beat Republican Kalani Tassill, said he was pleased with the election results.
"I believe the voters are not displeased with what the House and Senate Democrats are doing, especially the House Democrats, in spite of what the media has been conveying," he said.
Marumoto said the closeness of some races shows voters are sending a message that business as usual will not be tolerated at the Legislature.
"Democrats do not have a mandate," she said. "They are looking over their shoulders."
Souki said it is unclear how the election will affect his bid to remain as House speaker. "I would need to go to Honolulu and talk to the members," he said. "At this point it doesn't look very bad, but I cannot be presumptuous."
Star-Bulletin reporter Susan Kreifels contributed to this report.