Economy tops
some candidates’ lists

By Pat Omandam

When Jennifer Waihee thought about running for the state House earlier this year, she first sought the advice of her father.

Election 2002

The unexpected calm response she got from former Gov. John D. Waihee III surprised her.

"All he did was ask me why I wanted to run and to think about why I wanted to run," she said.

Waihee, 31, faces fellow attorney Sesnita Moepono, 51, in the Democratic primary election for the House seat that encompasses Nuuanu, Liliha and Puunui.

On the Republican ticket, Maemae School teacher Corinne Ching, 41, squares off against retired police officer Ken Akamine, 67.

The winners from each primary race will meet in the general election. The district has no incumbent in this election because current state Rep. Lei Ahu Isa (R) is running for the state Senate.

This is Jennifer Waihee's first attempt for public office, and it follows in the footsteps of her older brother John D. Waihee IV, who won election in 2000 as a trustee to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. He is up for re-election this year.

Waihee said she entered the race to channel her cynicism of government into something positive. She is glad to see so many enthusiastic young faces getting involved in politics.

She said revitalizing the economy is key to addressing issues such as education, public safety, health care and long-term care. Her endorsements include the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii Women's Political Caucus.

"I know that my party has been getting some criticism, too, lately, and I want to do my part to change that, too," she said.

Moepono, who served for nearly four years as OHA deputy administrator, said her first try for public office was in 1988 for a City Council seat. She believes her work since then as a legislative researcher and budget analyst gives her the experience needed to tackle the top legislative issue: stimulating the economy.

"I've been kind of waiting for the Legislature to do things that would help our community, especially within the past five years," she said.

"I've seen friends lose their businesses, move to the mainland because they can't find jobs," said Moepono, who believes expansion of Hawaii's health-care and high-tech industries are key components to the economy.

On the Republican ticket, Ching hopes her third try for the seat will be a charm after close losses in 1996 and 1998. As the only candidate who lives and works in the district and as a member of the neighborhood board, Ching believes she knows the area's issues.

Voters, she said, want change in government, and she senses things are in place for that to happen. Ethics and the restoration of trust in government are among the big issues for them, she said.

"That constantly comes up because people are concerned," she said. "And I think they have good right to be concerned."

Akamine, 67, served for 16 years on the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board. Ching said she is not taking him lightly.

"I think part of being serious in your race is knowing humility and never taking anything for granted," she said. "We've run together before. He's a person that I'm going to respect as a candidate."

House District 27 at a glance

Here's a snapshot of state House District 27 (Nuuanu-Puunui-Liliha), based on Census 2000:

Total population:


Major ethnic populations:

Japanese: 26 percent
Chinese: 18 percent
People w/ 2 or more races: 15 percent
Filipino: 15 percent
White: 8 percent
Native Hawaiian: 5 percent
Korean: 2 percent
Samoan: 2 percent

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