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Friday, November 17, 2000

New voter
discards old views

Kapolei is one precinct
in which voters ignore
traditional party ties

By Richard Borreca

To find the most coveted and discussed voters in the state, look around Kapolei on Oahu, Waimea on the Big Island, portions north of Lahaina and all of south Maui.

They are the new voters, old enough to care about government, but young enough to look for something new.

Politicians are heralding the new voter as the prototype for politics in the next decade.

"It isn't so much the demographics that have changed, it is the voters that are just very different," said Rep. Joe Souki, a veteran of Maui politics.

The middle-age and younger voter today, Souki said, is not going to vote Democratic just because his or her parents did.

"Just being a Japanese or Filipino district now, doesn't mean it will vote Democratic, not when they are all doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs," Souki said.

Take Oahu's new population growth area: Kapolei. The precinct of Kapolei trends toward the GOP. Texas Gov. George W. Bush lost the precinct by only 15 votes. Republican Hank Makini also won in his Senate campaign in the new precinct.

Although Makini ultimately lost the overall state Senate race to incumbent Democrat Brian Kanno, the precinct results point to a new sort of voter.

In comparison, the older, more established area of Ewa Beach went for Gore by a 2-to-1 margin and voted to re-elect Kanno.

"I would dare say that some Democrats voted for Bush because they agree with him, less government, hands off," Souki said.

Another Maui Democrat, Sen. Avery Chumbley, sees the whole South Maui area as a new voter district.

"My district has had a 35-percent registered-voter increase since I came into the Senate (1994) and has the largest number of voters," he said.

"Originally South Maui was primarily Caucasian, and transient, but now it is more local, more working families," he said, explaining that it is one of the few spots on Maui with affordable new housing.

"It is also more independent and leans more Republican than Democrat," he said.

Republican Rep. David Pendleton said that new Republicans are starting to mirror the younger voter profile.

"New voters tend to lean our way; they may have strong ties to this place, but have been away to college and decided to come back," he said. "They don't have strong ties to either party."

That sort of independent stand shows up in some of the Neighbor Island districts.

For instance, in the new areas of Waimea on the Big Island, voters picked Vice President Al Gore as their choice for president, but they also supported Republican Rep. Jim Rath's re-election.

The Lahaina, Molokai and Lanai district also voted for Gore, but picked a new Republican, Ron Davis, for the state House.

"I think you will see fewer of the knee-jerk Democrats," Pendleton said.

Souki countered, saying Democrats have to change their traditional pitch to minority and disenfranchised groups to include the new middle class.

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