Election 2002


Newcomers hold
legislative key

Possible gains by GOP candidates
could have an effect on
power in both chambers

» Map of new House districts
» Map of new Senate districts
» Senate and House candidates

By Pat Omandam

No matter what voters do on general election day, at least 18 new faces will be elected to the 76-member state Legislature -- seven in the Senate and 11 in the House.

In the Senate, 10 of 25 seats are uncontested races, and those lone candidates win by a single vote. Democrats are expected to remain the majority there, although state Sen. Sam Slom's (R, Hawaii Kai) vocal three-member GOP minority could gain a few more voices.

In the House there are only six uncontested seats, and it is the outcome of the remaining 46 races that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans have a majority, which is key to leadership and committee assignments.

Following the primary election, House Democratic leaders expressed a quiet confidence they will not only retain their majority in the chamber, but also gain a few more seats. House Republicans, however, contend their incumbents are difficult to unseat and their challengers are poised for victory.

This January, the state Capitol will be home to at least 18 new faces in the Legislature -- seven in the Senate and 11 in the House.

Currently, Republicans hold 20 seats in the 51-member House.

And despite all this election posturing from both parties, there remains a possibility voters will elect the first Green Party legislator in state history.

Green Jack Kelly believes his community activism on the Big Island has put him in a position to beat former legislator Bob Herkes, a Democrat, and Republican Vern Vance for the House District 5 seat, which covers the southern portion of the island.

If Kelly wins and the Democrats and Republicans split the remaining 50 seats, the Green Party will find itself with the key candidate for control of the House.

"If I make it, the balance of power between parties will be even more interesting," Kelly said recently.

Another key Big Island race is the District 6 race in Kona to replace state Rep. Paul Whalen, a Republican who is making a bid for the state Senate. Democrat Marni Herkes, a community leader, faces off against Republican Mark Jernigan, a businessman active in the Hawaii GOP.

On Oahu, two new Ewa House seats have political newcomers vying for the seat.

In the District 42 seat covering Waipahu-West Loch-Ewa, Republican Alfonso Jimenez faces off against Democrat Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo.

In the District 43 Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point seat, Democrat Romy Mindo battles Republican Pam Lee Smith for control.

And in Liliha, perennial candidate Corinne Ching meets first-time candidate Jennifer Waihee. Ching is a Republican businesswoman and teacher who has lost close elections for that seat in recent years. She will make it a tough race for Waihee, an attorney and Democrat who is following in the footsteps of her father, former Gov. John Waihee.

In the Senate, Republican Whalen must contend with former Democratic legislator Virginia Isbell in the Big Island's Milolii-Waimea District 3 seat.

Another hot Senate race to watch is in Ala Moana-Waikiki, where Democratic City Councilman Jon Yoshimura faces off against Republican businessman Gordon Trimble. Yoshimura won his primary election race by just 52 votes, while Trimble beat state Rep. Lei Ahu Isa in the GOP primary, who was considered among the front-runners in this race.

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