Council candidates emerge


POSTED: Monday, March 02, 2009

A week after the death of Honolulu City Councilwoman Barbara Marshall, three candidates have filed to run for her seat—a position that could determine the power balance on the sharply divided body.

; Political observers say they expect more candidates to compete for the seat in an unusual special election that will be conducted primarily through mail-in ballots.

Two candidates emerging early as front runners are Steve Holmes and John Henry Felix, former City Council members who have remained out of the political spotlight for some years.

When the City Council approved details of the special election on Wednesday, Holmes went straight to the City Clerk's Office for papers to run for his old seat representing Windward Oahu.

“;I'm glad to be back and excited to see the possibility of serving the people of the City and County of Honolulu again,”; said Holmes, 57.

Holmes served on the Council for 12 years beginning in 1991. Barred from re-election because of term limits, he joined the administration of former Mayor Jeremy Harris as the energy and sustainability coordinator before moving to Kailua-Kona.

Holmes later moved to Washington state to spend some time with his daughter and then to Virginia to work for Loudon County.

In a 2006 interview, Holmes told the Star-Bulletin his time in politics was over. But after Marshall died on Feb. 22 of colon cancer, Holmes flew to Honolulu and rented a home in Kailua. He said he plans on selling his condo in Kona.

Holmes emphasized his constant ties to Hawaii, calling it home and adding that his wife is a “;local girl,”; and sought to pre-empt any charges that he is “;carpetbagger.”;

“;Calling me a carpetbagger is outrageous,”; Holmes said. “;I promised Barbara I wouldn't run against her. I went on and enjoyed some quality time with my family, and I'm glad to be back.”;

Holmes is preparing for a short campaign that could include a formidable opponent, Felix, who is chairman and chief executive officer for the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association.

“;These folks have been out of the limelight for a long time, and that makes it a little more surprising,”; said University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner. “;On one hand, people with big name recognition have a certain kind of advantage in this short race. On the other hand, this is a chance for newcomers to run at a reasonably low cost.”;

Felix, an ally of Mayor Mufi Hannemann, has not formally filed to run for the seat, but has been privately contacting City Council members. He did not return phone calls from the Star-Bulletin for comment.

Others who have filed to run include Paul Akau and Wilson Kekoa Ho.

Marshall's aide, Ikaika Anderson, who ran unsuccessfully for state representative, is also considering entering the race. Friday is the deadline for candidates to register for the election period, which begins early this month and ends April 23.

The successor for Marshall's seat will affect the dynamics of the nine-member City Council, which is evenly divided between Hannemann supporters and opponents.