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Monday, October 16, 2000

Campaign 2000

A Look At The Hot Legislative Races


Hawaiian activist faces
well-known Hemmings

Kaneohe candidates
prepare for close race

By Richard Borreca

TO win her Democratic primary election, Leona Kalima, a social worker and Hawaiian activist, spent $27. She picked up 1,947 votes.

Now in the general election, she says the plumbers and fitters union gave her $2,000, so, she figures, anything is possible.

But Kalima is running as a Democrat in one of the state's few solid Republican Senate districts, the 25th Senatorial District running from Makapuu to Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station.

She is running against former state Rep. Fred Hemmings, who with unsuccessful campaigns for both governor (1990) and lieutenant governor (1994) has strong name recognition. In his victory over the incumbent, Sen. Whitney Anderson, Hemmings picked up 4,188 votes.

"I'm going to have to change some Republican minds, that's for sure," Kalima said.

"I look at the community as the quarterback, and I'm the receiver: I catch the ball and deliver it to the Legislature," she said.

Hemmings also wants to expand his base. After six years in the Legislature, where he was on the front line attacking former Gov. John Waihee's spending policies, Hemmings said he is tempering his criticism. "I'm not the partisan warrior I was in the '80s. I'm not selling labels."

"I'm hoping the independents and progressive Democrats realize they have been failed by the status quo," he added.

Kalima is one of 4,000 Hawaiians suing the state to continue the previously canceled Hawaiian Homes land claims. She now works for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as an information and referrals supervisor.

Two years ago, Kalima ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state House, but was encouraged to switch parties and try for the Senate.

Hemmings, an independent sports enterprises consultant who started the first professional surfing tournaments, said he is running because "people are making a wonderful connection between what is happening and the state of politics -- most of our lives are affected by the political process."

The pair disagree on what to do to increase help for native Hawaiians. Hemmings said he is against a proposal supported by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka that would allow native Hawaiians federal recognition similar to that granted American Indian tribes.

"Something is better than nothing," Kalima said. "We are the host culture here, and as far as Hawaiian issues go, I'm going to stick up for my people."

Hemmings said he did not think the Akaka bill would solve "the constitutional problems. We have to let the Hawaiians control their own destiny with their own assets.

"If I had my druthers, I would vest over the assets of OHA and the Hawaiian Homes Commission to a private native Hawaiian trust," he said.


Waimanalo, Kailua

Fred Hemmings (R)
Sports promoter and consultant
Background: World champion surfer; wrote local best-seller "The Soul of Surfing Is Hawaiian"; former state representative; ran unsuccessfully for governor (1990) and lieutenant governor (1994)

Leona Kalima (D)
Office of Hawaiian Affairs supervisor
Background: Worked in Catholic Charities and Hawaiian Homes Lands Department; ran two years ago as Republican for state House

Kaneohe candidates
prepare for close race

By Crystal Kua

When Democrat Iris Ikeda Catalani and Republican Charles Kong Djou squared off for the first time two years ago, both were hoping to claim the vacated seat for House District 47, which stretches from Kaneohe to Kahaluu.

In this year's rematch, Catalani has the advantage in being the incumbent, having won the 1998 election by 190 votes.

But Djou doesn't see Catalani's incumbency as an advantage.

"This will be a referendum on what Iris Catalani has done," Djou said.

Catalani believes that people in her district are appreciative of her performance in office, especially in garnering their opinions on what's important to them.

Early on in her term, Catalani put out a comment card, asking constituents what they wanted at the Legislature.

She said she was delighted when more than 1,000 cards were returned.

"For the most part, they are happy we're asking that question," she said. "People are very happy that I'm asking them to participate in that way. They've become more involved in what's happening."

Catalani believes she was able to respond to community concerns by, for example, putting money into the state budget to landscape Kahekili Highway, something residents have been waiting for since the highway was widened in 1995.

Djou -- whose French-sounding name is actually Chinese in origin, his Web site says -- said he believes that residents in his district are looking for change and a more independent voice in the Legislature.

"I'm very confident that if they hear me in public forums, when they hear my views and Iris' views, I do present a very good and welcome change from what she's presented," Djou said. "She hasn't been a strong voice in the Legislature."

Djou said there are sharp differences in their positions on issues. "I believe in smaller government, reducing the tax burden on people, a decentralized school structure."

Djou said his background in law, finance and telecommunications gives him the tools needed to improve and sustain Hawaii's economy.

Because the contest between the two candidates was close the first time around, Djou said he is trying to get as many people as possible to the polls.

"These elections are won and lost one voter at a time," Djou said. "It's about talking to voters one at a time to go out and vote."


Kahaluu, Heeia, Kaneohe

Iris Ikeda Catalani (D)
Legislator, attorney
Background: Former research chief to Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono; former senior aide to Councilman Andy Mirikitani; former staff attorney for state House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee

Charles Kong Djou (R)
Background: Kaneohe Neighborhood Board; Hawaii Republican Party interim vice chairman, 1998-99; Hawaii Young Business Roundtable; Hawaii Telecommunications Association

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