Election 2002

Parties confident
of winning
House majority

Ads aim at fence-sitters
Testers say voting machines ready
Arroyo photo draws fire
Chamber of Commerce survey

By Crystal Kua

However you add it up, Republicans could come close to gaining the magic number of 26 seats needed to win control the of 51-member state House.

"I think we've got a shot," said Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Micah Kane. "We started with 19 (GOP seats), and I think it can go anywhere from where we are now to picking up anywhere from three to seven seats. It just depends."

But Democrats are confident about maintaining the majority.

"There's no question about that," said Andy Winer, director of the Hawaii Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign. "We're taking seats back."

Here's a look at key races:

Big Island

Democratic state Rep. Eric Hamakawa, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has a tough race against former UH-Hilo Vulcan basketball player Andy Smith in the district covering Hilo.

Winer said Hamakawa is "a strong candidate whom I think basically represents Hilo values very, very well."

Kane said: "Andy Smith has put sweat equity into that community. I think they realize that this kid has his heart in the right place and he's for Hilo."

Another interesting race is for the Kau-South Kona district.

While most observers believe veteran politician Bob Herkes will win, observers aren't dismissing the candidacy of Green Jack Kelly. The district has elected two Greens to the Hawaii County Council before.

Windward Oahu

Republicans see Windward Oahu as a stronghold, but a couple of incumbent GOP representatives could fall.

Republican state Rep. David Pendleton has turned to television advertising after the lines of his district were redrawn. He said nearly half the voters are new to him now.

"We found we needed something to supplement my going door-to-door in those new areas," the three-term incumbent said. "I think the TV has helped."

Democratic opponent Clyde Morita, an environmental consultant, thinks he can benefit from redistricting.

"Traditionally, it's been a Democrat district represented by Democrats," Morita said.

Republican Rep. Joe Gomes is also at risk, facing attorney Tommy Waters.

"I think in particular, environmental issues are real important in that district," Winer said. "Joe Gomes has the worst rating of any legislator from the Sierra Club."

Kane says voters know what Gomes has done for them. "I think people recognize that Joe has represented the community well. He's stepped forward on every issue for Waimanalo and Kailua. Joe has a track record."

Leeward Oahu

A Democrat and a Republican incumbent on the Waianae Coast are facing tough challenges. Democratic Rep. Michael Kahikina's opponent is community activist Karen Awana while Republican Rep. Emily Auwae is looking at attorney Maile Shimabukuro.

"I think Emily is going to be OK," Kane said. "I think she's worked hard, but at the same time there was a lot of unfair campaign practices, and unfortunately Maile fell prey to the Andy Winer school of dirty campaigning." Kane was referring to controversial mailers sent by the Democrat's coordinated campaign on the gas-cap law.

Winer said those mailers are accurate. He also said that Shimabukuro is a strong candidate.

"She comes at it with a legal background, having grown up in the community," he said. "She's passionate about working people and making sure that working people are taken care of."


Republican Corinne Ching, a public school teacher, and Democrat Jennifer Waihee, an attorney and daughter of the former governor, are vying for the Liliha-Nuuanu seat vacated by Rep. Lei Ahu Isa.


The race between Democratic Rep. Mina Morita and Republican Nelson Secretario is being called a "tossup." Kane said Morita will have to answer why she voted to raid the hurricane fund since she represents an island that has been ravaged twice by hurricanes.

Winer said north Kauai residents will see that Morita is an effective lawmaker.

"The fact that she was able to get the bottle bill passed is a tribute to her skills as a legislator," Winer said.


Republicans are hoping to make gains on Linda Lingle's former home island, including a challenge to former House Speaker Joe Souki by the GOP's Mahina Martin. Republicans also believe they can take the West Maui seat with Brian Blundell, who gave back oil money contributed to his campaign.

Winer believes incumbent Republican Ron Davis could be unseated by former state Rep. Sol Kahoohalahala to represent Hana, Molokai and Lanai.

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