Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Kauai and Maui pols
differ on district lines

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> To canoe or not to canoe -- that is the question.

And the two incumbents in Hawaii's only so-called canoe districts, each of whom represents portions of both Kauai and Maui, could not be more divided on it.

Rep. Mina Morita, who lives on Kauai, would like to keep things in House District 12 pretty much the way they are. Sen. Avery Chumbley of Senate District 6 wants a district of his own -- all on Maui, where he lives.

The question could be decided by the Reapportionment Commission, made up of four Democrats and four Republicans.

The simple math of dividing the state population in the last census by 51 House districts and 25 Senate districts shows each representative should represent about 24,000 people and each senator about 43,000. The numbers will be refined by the commission to eliminate military members and part-time residents who vote in other states.

The census figures seem to show that Maui (including Molokai and Lanai) has increased enough in population since 1990 so that it probably is eligible for a third Senate seat without having to create a canoe district with another island. But it may not be entitled to a sixth House district contained entirely within Maui.

The Maui population was pegged at 128,094, which would give it three senators but only 5.3 representatives.

The picture is different on Kauai, however. Kauai's population (including Niihau) in the last census was 58,463, which equates to 1.36 senators and 2.44 representatives -- not much different from the current situation.

That seems to mean Kauai will end up with canoe districts in both legislative chambers. The problem then becomes, Which island gets the other part of the canoe district?

It is complicated by the state Constitution, which requires the House and Senate district boundaries be as similar as possible in geographic area, with the smaller House districts contained within the larger Senate districts.

And that is where Morita and Chumbley part company.

Morita wants to keep, as much as possible, the status quo, and the reason is pretty obvious.

In last year's election she was opposed only by a Natural Law Party candidate who did no active campaigning. Morita won in a landslide.

But in 1996, when she ousted one-term incumbent Billy Swain in the Democratic Primary, and in 1998, when she defeated Republican challenger Jay Furfaro, Morita lost both elections on Kauai but won heavily enough on Maui to take the elections.

An anti-development protege of former Kauai Mayor Joanne Yukimura, Morita must overcome the votes from the conservative bastion of Princeville on Kauai's north shore every two years in order to remain in office.

"I think it would be difficult to advocate solely to preserve my position," Morita said. "But the issues in East Maui are much more similar to those on the north shore of Kauai than they are to some areas on Maui such as Kihei.

"As long as it is acceptable to the Maui community, I believe I work for the benefit of both parts of the district."

Chumbley has won all three of his elections both on Maui and Kauai. Two-thirds of his constituents live on Maui. "I'm the least-known legislator on Kauai," he said.

He believes Kauai should share its third House district and second Senate district with Oahu. And, because the Constitution ties House and Senate districts together, he believes Maui should get an undivided sixth House district, even if the population numbers fall short.

"I've been for getting rid of the House canoe district all along because it simply doesn't work," Chumbley said. "I believe it's going to happen. In my mind it's inevitable."

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