Election 2002


Council elections bring
experience to the table

But only 1 district has 2 candidates
who have held elected office

Honolulu council candidates

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

None of the 12 people running for six Honolulu City Council seats have ever been elected to city office.

But that doesn't mean they're short on experience:

>> Five of the candidates have been elected to the state Legislature.

>> Three others have worked at City Hall under the tutelage of other elected officials, and another as Honolulu police chief.

>> Two have been involved in their respective neighborhood boards, while the remaining two have also been high-profile, active community members.

The six would join incumbents Romy Cachola, Ann Kobayashi and Gary Okino, who all won re-election outright in the September primary by garnering more than 50 percent of the votes cast. Due to reapportionment and staggered terms, those winning even-numbered districts seats will get four-year terms. Odd-numbered district seat winners get only two-year terms.

At the Council inauguration in 1998, former City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann was smiling and singing with nine incumbents returning. But this year, none of them were eligible to run again.

District I (Waianae to Ewa) features the one race without a former elected office holder. Mike Gabbard, a businessman best known as a leader in a group favoring traditional marriage, outdistanced second-place finisher Pam Witty-Oakland, legislative aide to outgoing Councilman John DeSoto, 2-to-1 in the primary but won only 36 percent of the vote. Gabbard is banking on his reputation for family values and patriotism, while Witty-Oakland is emphasizing her experience working in the community as DeSoto's legislative analyst.

District II (Mililani Mauka to Kaneohe) pits Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Wahiawa Neighborhood Board, against Gerald Hagino, who has 14 years' experience in the Legislature. Dela Cruz got only 261 more votes than Hagino in the primary, and some 40 percent of the vote went to other candidates. Dela Cruz is a marketing director for a publishing company and also an author.

Hagino works for the Oceanic Institute and formerly worked for the administration of Mayor Jeremy Harris. Dela Cruz is emphasizing his youth and a need for new blood while Hagino is reminding people about his legislative experience.

District III (Kaneohe to Waimanalo) features former television journalist Barbara Marshall and former state Sen. Stan Koki. Marshall bested Koki in the primary by a little more than 1,000 votes, but more than 8,700 votes went to other candidates. Koki won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor four years ago, while Marshall spent more than two decades as a Hawaii television reporter. Koki emphasizes his roots as a self-made businessman, while Marshall says she's learned how to ask hard questions.

District IV (Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana) puts two more diverse candidates against each other in former state Rep. Charles Djou and veteran government administrator Bob Fishman.

Djou is considered a rising star in the Republican Party after only two years in the state House of Representatives. Fishman, on the other hand, spent four years as Mayor Jeremy's Harris' right-hand man when he was managing director for the city and also was chief of staff for former Gov. John Waihee. Djou bested Fishman in the primary by 15 percentage points, but some 45 percent of the electorate cast votes for others.

District VI (Makiki to Kalihi Valley) pits Sen. Rod Tam against longtime Makiki Neighborhood Board Chairman John Steelquist. Tam has been in the Legislature since 1982, the last eight in the Senate. Steelquist has chaired the Makiki Neighborhood Board for 15 years. Tam beat Steelquist in the primary 32 percent to 19 percent, but the votes of three other candidates and a large number of blank votes are still up for grabs. Tam's strength as a master campaigner gets a challenge from a man who can say he has been around government but not directly involved.

District IX (Makakilo to Mililani) is the only Council race featuring two men who have held elected office: longtime state Rep. Nestor Garcia and former Police Chief Mike Nakamura, a member of the Board of Education. Garcia has been in the House since 1994 and is a former television reporter and aide to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Nakamura was elected to the BOE in 2000 after stepping down as police chief after a seven-year tenure. Nakamura has been playing the "integrity" card, while Garcia is touting his experience as a legislator. Garcia had 39 percent of the vote to Nakamura's 26 percent.

Garnered enough votes
in the primary

>> District V (Kapahulu-Kakaako): Ann Kobayashi

>> District VII (Kalihi-Foster Village): Romy Cachola

E-mail to City Desk


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