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Thursday, October 19, 2000


A Look At Hot Legislative Races


GOP incumbent plans to
overcome deficit in primary

Rivals focus on improving education

Running for the third time as a Republican in a traditionally Democratic district, state Rep. Bob McDermott said he's used to a poor showing in the primary election.

"People go in the booth and they vote their party. But when it comes to the general election, they have a choice," he said.

So McDermott, 37, said he isn't concerned that his opponent Eddie Aguinaldo received 600 more votes than he did in the Democratic primary.


Aliamanu, Foster Village, Halawa, Aiea

Eddie Aguinaldo (D)
Owner, Dynamic Interiors
Background: Active in Filipino community; basketball coach, Police Athletic League

Bob McDermott (R)
Legislator; college instructor in speech and economics
Background: Former Marine Corps officer, Gulf War veteran

"If they take a look at my record, they'll rehire me and let me continue another term," McDermott said.

McDermott sees education as the main issue in his district. Last year, he said he helped get a $750,000 appropriation through the Legislature to repair Radford High School. He also partnered with the private sector to start a nonprofit organization that has raised $10,000 for the school.

He says raising awareness about the decrepit state of Hawaii's public schools led to another $9 million for his district and $45 million in funds for capital improvements statewide. He'd like to see more money put toward improving the physical plant structure of the public schools, but "before we even have that discussion we have to fix the holes in the roof. We have to keep the flies out of the cafeteria. We have to keep those rooms cool."

Aguinaldo, a small business owner, has never been involved in politics before, but "when you see a community that's kind of falling behind instead of moving forward, I guess that's why I stuck my neck out," he said.

He would like to promote a good environment for schoolchildren and keep up with technological advances in the schools. He'd like to start a neighborhood watch program to fight drugs and gangs in his district and advocate for programs that keep young people away from crime.

Aguinaldo said he thinks his chances of winning the election are "very slim," but the primary results were encouraging. To win, he said, he just has to let people know that he's there to serve their needs.

"As a first-timer, being a young man like me, I don't have all the experience and I probably don't have all the right answers for different issues, but a person like me isn't scared to learn and listen to the concerns" of people in my district, he said.

Treena Shapiro, Star-Bulletin

Rivals focus on
improving education

Education is one of the top concerns for candidates vying to represent House District 40, which encompasses Wahiawa and Whitmore Village.

Funding to the schools should be increased and more money should go directly to the classrooms, said Democrat incumbent Marcus Oshiro, 41.


Wahiawa, Whitmore Village

Marcus Oshiro (D)
Background: Vice speaker; first elected to state House in 1994.

Allan Tomas (R)
Owner/ administrator, Aloha Friendship Center
Background: Has worked as a counselor for more than 12 years.

"The schools could always use more funds, but there should be more funds to the classroom to benefit the students," said Oshiro, now vice speaker of the House. Teachers, parents and principals should work together to decide how to spend the money, he said.

His opponent, Allan Tomas, 33, also believes in improving the learning environment in the classroom. The schools should eliminate out-of-date books and provide current software and other learning aids to help teachers do their job, he said.

Tomas, a counselor who owns and operates a senior-care center in Whitmore Village, supports more funding for the schools but demands better accounting for how the money is used.

"We need more money and stronger accounting. We need to identify exactly where the money is going. We know the money is being appropriated, but there are no checks and balances to see how it's being spent," he said.

Tomas said the state Department of Education should be reorganized into smaller, district-based groups in order to allow for more input by students and parents.

Oshiro said he supports a pay raise and better benefits for teachers to help retain the best teachers. The state should subsidize the cost of seminars and training programs for teachers, who often pay with their own money to update their skills, he said.

Both candidates also said they support more efforts to revitalize the economy in their district.

Suzanne Tswei, Star-Bulletin

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