Dems take hold
of new district

Editor's note: This is the 15th in a series of profiles of political candidates for the primary election Sept. 21.

By Pat Omandam

It is a winner-take-all primary election in the new state House district that covers Waipahu, Village Park and Waikele. Democrats will control this seat no matter what.

Election 2002

Four Democrats -- Jon Riki Karamatsu, 27; Rito Saniatan, 42; Nathan Takeuchi, 31; and Annette Yamaguchi, 61 -- all feel they are qualified to represent residents in this district where traffic, education and crime are top issues.

Karamatsu, an attorney and former assistant to state Sen. Carol Fukunaga, said his passion for politics began early and was influenced by Gov. John Burns' push for social justice in the early 1950s.

Karamatsu wants to focus on diversifying the economy, which in turn will provide the revenue needed to address district concerns such as the building of a new Royal Kunia School.

He believes a strengthened economy will attract small business and stop Hawaii's brain drain, in which young professionals are leaving for mainland jobs.

"My platform is real different from the other guys," he said. "I think I'm more geared toward the economy first, then education."

Saniatan, an insurance agent and soccer coach, said he has worked and lived in his district since 1986 and knows the neighborhood's problems, which include the need for new public schools.

"I know what's happening in the district. I'm in the heart and soul of my district," Saniatan said.

"That's the reason I decided to run and work hard to try to get elected," he said.

Saniatan, a member of the Royal Kunia Association and past president of the Oahu Filipino Junior Chamber of Commerce, said he wants to return honesty and integrity to government.

Takeuchi, 31, an office manager for state Rep. Roy Takumi, said he decided to run for public office again because he feels he has the overall experience needed to serve the district.

Takeuchi, who ran for a state House seat in 2000, said he's been active in the Waipahu community and knows how the state legislative process works. The Village Park resident worked with Takumi last session on the passage of a bill to lower the prices of prescription drugs.

Nevertheless, he doesn't consider himself a political insider. Instead, Takeuchi said that if elected, he will introduce bills unpopular among legislators, such as a bill that bans campaign contributions during the session and another that imposes term limits .

He also wants to strengthen regulations on the dumping of pesticides, part of his environmental agenda to provide the state with clean drinking water.

"I think if elected, I can hit the ground running," he said. "It won't be (that) I have to spend my freshman year learning the ropes."

Yamaguchi is the owner of "Grandma Nette's" day-care facility in Waipahu and has served on the Waipahu Neighborhood Board for the past 16 years.

Her campaign was put on hold six weeks ago after Yamaguchi underwent open-heart surgery. She said she's up and about again and hopes her temporary absence from the campaign won't affect her election.

After more than 40 years of community work in Waipahu, Yamaguchi feels she's the most qualified to serve as representative. She was there when the city first began to plan Waikele and Village Park.

"I've been part of the process of each of those communities and have a deep understanding of how those developments came about," she said.

Yamaguchi also has received all the major endorsements from unions representing public workers.

"I really do think I am the most qualified of the four of us, based on my track record and involvement with this total community," she said.

District 41 at a glance

Here's a snapshot of state House District 41 (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele), based on Census 2000:

Total population

23,839 (50 percent male; 50 percent female)

Major ethnic populations

Filipino: 33 percent
People with two or more races: 20 percent
Japanese: 15 percent
White: 10 percent
Native Hawaiian: 4 percent
Samoan: 4 percent
Chinese: 3 percent
Black: 2 percent

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