Election 2002


Big Isle reps
make Senate move

Democrat Virginia Isbell and
the GOP's Paul Whalen hope to
claim a seat in the new 3rd District

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

By Rod Thompson

KAILUA-KONA >> In 1996, after 16 years in the state Legislature, Kona Rep. Virginia Isbell left for an unsuccessful bid to become Big Island mayor.

Now, after two unsuccessful tries to return to the House, the Kona Democrat is running instead for the Senate.

The old 3rd Senate District ran from South Kona around the bottom of the island nearly to Hilo.

The current 3rd District seat, vacant because of 2001 boundary changes, has purely West Hawaii boundaries.

That's similar to the old House seat, where Isbell was first elected in 1980.

"I felt very comfortable with that," she said.

Both Democrat Virginia Isbell and Republican Paul Whalen hope to claim the new west Hawaii seat in the state Senate.

Equally comfortable is her Republican opponent, Paul Whalen, attempting to move from the House to the reconfigured Senate seat. Whalen says the district is predominantly Republican, pointing out that its core is two House districts now held by himself and fellow Republican Jim Rath.

Whalen says voters there, like himself, generally want smaller, more efficient government.

But he also introduced a bill this spring that gave the state regulatory power unique in the nation. His bill to put a cap on gasoline prices passed, although with an amendment not to his liking which puts caps on retail prices.

Originally a Republican, Isbell switched to the Democrats in 1988 and became chairwoman of the House Housing Committee.

She got a "rent to own" provision written into state housing projects which she says should now be extended to private housing projects.

High housing costs are driving Kona parents to work up to three jobs each, she says. With no supervision, their children turn to drugs, she says.

Both Isbell and Whalen also talk about direct action for constituents.

When waves smashed a Keauhou Bay pier in February, the state said a minimum of six months would be needed to fix it. Isbell got on the phone and within hours had permission for fishermen and others to fix it with their own money.

When post-9/11 security fears led the state to block access to popular "Pine Trees" beach with boulders, Whalen got a friend with an earthmover and reopened the beach.

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