Richar Borreca

On Politics

By Richard Borreca

Sunday, August 5, 2001

Politicos adapt to
changing boundaries

IF YOU WERE LOOKING at a map of Oahu and placed one hand on Makapuu and the other on Waianae and squeezed, you would be doing something similar to what is going on with the state Reapportionment Commission.

As you push, the middle is compressed until something in the middle drops out.

But the squeeze isn't equal.

The technical part of the equation moves the legislative district boundaries, expanding the areas where population has slipped and shrinking the areas where population has grown in the last decade.

For politicians who measure their friends one block at a time, every change in the boundaries of their home district is critical.

The result is that if the changes remain, the House could see a big increase in new members and the politically volatile Senate would remain Balkanized.

HERE'S A FAST RUNDOWN on what the Reapportionment Commission means to the Legislature:

More people live in the Leeward-Kapolei area than they did 10 years ago, so they need more representatives. Less people live in East Honolulu, so they need fewer representatives and senators.

Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kapahulu, Kaimuki), a veteran leader who is on the outs in the latest Senate alignment, is really on the outs with the Reapportionment Commission, as his district disappeared and he would be forced to run in the same district as Sen. Matt Matsunaga (D, Waialae, Palolo). Ihara's saving grace may be Matsunaga's ambition. If Matsunaga runs for lieutenant governor, as he is considering, Ihara would have a chance in the Senate.

Freshman Rep. Willie Espero (D, Ewa Beach) could be the big winner. A newly created Senate district is roughly the same as his existing House district, so he can run for the Senate. And his House district would split into two, meaning two new House members. Espero, however, might face Republican Hank Makini, who nearly beat incumbent Sen. Brian Kanno (D, Ewa Beach, Makakilo) last year, so Espero doesn't have a free ride.

Democrats are also finding themselves cohabiting the same district under the reapportionment plan. Reps. Ben Cabreros (D, Kalihi Kai, Palama) and Felipe Abinsay Jr. (D, Moanalua, Kapalama) are in the same part of Kalihi, but the two Democrats are reportedly deciding among themselves who will run in 2002.

GIVEN ALL THAT, this is still a work in progress.

This part of the reapportionment plan is the first shoe and it is taking a long time to drop.

This week, the commission decided to double-check the legality of whom they are counting as part of the population base. Then there is an expected court challenge and finally a round of public hearings and a lot of insider arm-twisting as legislators test their power in moving boundaries.

The end result is that the squeeze you see today is just the opening round.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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