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Wednesday, October 25, 2000


A Look At Hot Legislative Races


GOP incumbent cites
record; foe says more
needs to be done

Crystal Kua

THEY both have experience at the Legislature -- one as a state lawmaker and one as an aide to a state lawmaker.

State Rep. Colleen Meyer sees her six years representing residents from Kahaluu to Laie among her assets in her re-election bid.

"I believe during the past six years I've gained a great deal of experience," Meyer said.

George Okuda, meanwhile, said his retirement after 27 years with Hawaiian Electric and his behind-the-scenes work at the state Capitol give him the time and understanding needed to be the agent of change being sought by his district.

"My master would be the constituents," Okuda said. "Now, I can serve full time."

Okuda pointed to the lessons he's learned while working for state Rep. Ken Ito on both state finances and in education. "It's very intriguing, the enormity of it. Everybody only sees the surface of things."

Meyer said that although she's a Republican, she is able to get things done for her district and the state.

Meyer said she has been there to fight for schools in her district. Many people "throwing stones" at incumbents don't understand how the process works, she said.

"Education is big in my mind," she said. "I've worked hard to stay in communication with my district."

For example, she said she helped get money to expand the cafeteria at Laie Elementary School and helped to restore to the state budget $1 million to acquire land to expand Kahuku High School.

Besides education, Meyer lists economic issues and the safety of a stretch of Kamehameha Highway in her district.

Okuda said he believes that more needs to be done to fight for the needs of the district, especially the schools.

"I felt that I could do more for the district," he said. "I felt that the district was not being well-represented."

While schools on the other side of the island are getting first-class facilities and boosts in technology, Windward schools have been the "forgotten child" of the school system, Okuda said.

Okuda also said that following a Supreme Court decision earlier this year over how much water from the Waiahole Ditch should be diverted to Leeward Oahu, water issues also will be a hot topic.



Colleen Meyer (R)
Legislator; small business owner
Background: Real estate sales and property management

George Okuda (D)
Retired, Hawaiian Electric Co.
Background: Legislative aide to Rep. Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe); Hawaii Parent Teacher Student Assn.

Aiona hoping
to make a comeback
against Rep. Schatz
in District 24

Crystal Kua

Compare their records. That's what the current and the former state representatives in House District 24 are asking voters to do as the two battle to see who will serve the district for a second two-year term.

State Rep. Brian Schatz is the Democratic incumbent and Sam Aiona is the Republican challenger who was unseated by Schatz in 1998 after serving one term in the state House.

"Two candidates with two years under their belt. ... What did they do?" Schatz said.

"I think the difference is the record," Aiona said.

Aiona was the incumbent in 1998 when Schatz ran against him and won, becoming the youngest member in the state House.

Schatz said that since then, constituents have seen what he's done for the economy, the neighborhood, education, improving government and the environment.

As examples, he points to the $25,000 he helped get for the Makiki library, the establishment of a school accountability system and a reduction in class size in grades kindergarten through second.

While Schatz was successful in banning shark finning, he was on the losing side of the effort to use public money to fund City Council elections.

"I think the people in the district are sophisticated. What they want is results, that's what our campaign has been about, delivering results," Schatz said.

The Republican Party also has its sights set on this race to raise Republican numbers in the state Legislature.

"Do we want to continue on the same path we've been going with the same type of people in power or do we want to fix education, fix the economy and put new people in office?" Aiona said.

Aiona lost the 1998 race, he said, because he wasn't paying attention to his own race and instead was concentrating more on getting Linda Lingle, now the state Republican Party chairwoman, elected governor.

This time he hit the campaign trail early, focusing on sign-waving and meeting district residents door-to-door.

Education is the number one issue for Aiona. "I think that is by far the most important issue we need to work on," he said. "We need smaller classes, we need an increase in teachers' salary, we need more monies for the physical improvement of schools and we need everyone to get involved in a child's education."

Aiona said that if he gets back in the Legislature, he'd like to continue looking at cutting taxes, especially those on food, medicine and rent.

This race has also been characterized by a colorful sign-waving battle.

Aiona said he got the idea from a constituent who wasn't crazy about sign-waving and told Aiona that if he was going to wave signs, he should put on the signs his position on issues. As a result, slogans such as "Cutting Taxes" or "Smaller Classes" were born.

"People have thanked me for coming up with the idea. I'm glad a constituent gave me the idea," he said.

Schatz said the biggest difference in the slogans is that Aiona's signs show what he wants to do while Schatz's show what he has already accomplished.



Sam Aiona (R)
Loan officer for mortgage broker
Background: Former District 24 state representative

Brian Schatz (D)
State lawmaker; partner in a Web site design and marketing company
Background: Founder, Youth for Environmental Service

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