Marriage debate drives many key races

By The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 18--Hawaii politics is in transition in the wake of the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and the retirement of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

The churn at the top has caused political uncertainty that may take several election cycles to settle. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, despite the state's economic recovery and a $3.8 million war chest, is not assured of re-election given voter unease about his leadership.

Majority Democrats are certain to keep control of the state House and Senate, but the leadership lineup in both chambers will likely change after the elections. Republicans are overdue to correct some of the political imbalance at the Legislature. But many of the GOP's prospects are religious conservatives who were motivated to run by last year's special session on gay marriage, a trend that could alienate moderate voters the party needs to compete.

Democrats now hold a 24-1 majority in the Senate and a 44-7 majority in the House.

Here's a look at some of this year's key legislative races:


District 4 (Kaupulehu-Waimea-North Hilo)

--Sen. Malama Solomon (D)

--Lorraine Inouye (D)

--Alain Schiller (L)

Outlook: Democratic. Solomon held off Inouye,

a former state senator and mayor, by 69 votes in the primary in 2012. Solomon is chairwoman of the Senate Water and Land Committee and a passionate voice on Native Hawaiian issues. But she can be a polarizing figure in the Senate and has upset progressives on development, geothermal, GMO and environmental issues.

--District 6 (West Maui-South Maui)

--Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D)

--Terez Amato (D)

--Jared "Pika" Dubois (R)

--Bronson Kaahui (L)

Outlook: Democratic. Baker is chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and one of the more substantive senators when it comes to policy. Yet she has angered the growing anti-GMO movement by blocking labeling bills and has drawn a primary challenge from Amato, an environmentalist. With an initiative on the November ballot that will ask voters whether to place a moratorium on GMOs on Maui, the issue may have some resonance in the primary.

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District 18 (Mililani-Waikele-Kunia)

--Sen. Michelle Kidani (D)

--Dennis Kim (R)

--Raymond Banda III (L)

Outlook: Leans Democratic. Kidani is vice chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and oversees the state construction spending outlay. She turned back a primary challenge from former state Rep. Michael Magaoay and easily won re-election in 2012.

But this is one of the races where gay marriage could be an undercurrent. Kim, an insurance agent and estate planner, has served as public affairs director for the Mormon Church in Hawaii.

District 21 (Kalaeloa-Waianae-Makaha)

--Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D)

--Michael Kahikina (D)

--Tercia Ku (R)

--Johnnie-Mae Perry (R)

--Randy Roman (R)

--Ruth Brown (N)

Outlook: Democratic. Shimabukuro is chairwoman of the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee and had some legislative successes last session on bills related to child abuse and sexual assault. Kahikina is a former state representative and ordained minister who has been active in Leeward community affairs.

District 23 (Heeia-Laie-Waialua)

--Rep. Richard Fale (R)

--Colleen Meyer (R)

--Norman Brown (R)

--Gil Riviere (D)

Outlook: Open seat. Tossup. Sen. Clayton Hee's decision to run for lieutenant governor has thrown the political control of this sprawling Windward and North Shore district into uncertainty. Fale, a Mormon who opposes gay marriage, had prepared to take on Hee, one of the sponsors of marriage equality. But the dynamics have shifted with Hee no longer the target in the general election. Meyer, who narrowly lost to Hee in 2012, is a fiscal and social conservative who represented a portion of the district in the House for 14 years. Riviere, who switched parties and became a Democrat after losing to Fale in a House GOP primary in 2012, is hoping the environment and land conservation trump social issues.

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District 4 (Hawaiian Acres-Pahoa-Kalapana)

--Rep. Faye Hanohano (D)

--Joy San Buenaventura (D)

--Leilani Bronson-Crelly (D)

--Brian Jordan (D)

--Julia Peleiholani (D)

--Gary Thomas (R)

Outlook: Democratic. House leaders scolded Hanohano, chairwoman of the House Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, after she was accused for a second time of racially discriminatory and inappropriate conduct. Hanohano insists that her actions have been mischaracterized, and she has her defenders in a Puna-based district suspicious of Oahu-centric political attitudes. She has drawn four primary opponents, including San Buenaventura, an attorney. In such a crowded field, however, name recognition could work in Hanohano's favor.

District 6 (Holualoa, Kailua-Kona, Honokohau)

--Rep. Nicole Lowen (D)

--Kalei Akaka (D)

--Kelly Valenzuela (R)

--Roy Ebert (R)

Outlook: Tossup. Lowen, a freshman, edged Akaka, granddaughter of retired U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, by 45 votes in the primary in 2012. Valenzuela, daughter of late state lawmaker Wilfred "Buddy" Soares, is among the crop of candidates motivated to run by the special session on gay marriage. The west side district is potentially competitive for Republicans.

District 9 (Kahului-Wailuku-Puunene)

--Rep. Justin Woodson (D)

--James "Kimo" Apana (D)

Outlook: Democratic. Woodson was appointed last year by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill a House vacancy and is facing primary voters for the first time. Apana is a former Maui mayor.

District 15 (Wailua-Hanamaulu-Lihue)

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--Rep. James Tokioka (D)

--Dylan Hooser (D)

--Steve Yoder (R)

Outlook: Democratic. Tokioka has strong ties to the political establishment on the Garden Island, but he lost influence in the House after the leadership shake-up last year that brought House Speaker Joseph Souki, dissident Democrats and Republicans to power. Hooser, son of Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser, is attempting to tap into the growing anti-GMO movement.

District 22 (Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako)

--Rep. Tom Brower (D)

--Janet Grace (R)

Outlook: Leans Democratic. Brower, chairman of the House Tourism Committee, gained attention last year -- some of it unwanted -- for taking a sledgehammer

to stolen shopping carts used by the homeless. Grace, a former executive director of Hawaii Right to Life who works in home health care, is among the candidates being touted by religious conservatives.

District 23 (Manoa-Punahou-Moiliili)

--Rep. Isaac Choy (D)

--Nathaniel Kinney (D)

Outlook: Democratic. Choy, chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, is an accountant often called upon by lawmakers

to share his expertise on

financial issues. Kinney, an insurance executive, is a former aide to Mayor Kirk Caldwell and a director for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 50. He lost a special election for City Council in 2009.

District 27 (Nuuanu-Liliha-Alewa Heights)

--Rep. Takashi Ohno (D)

--Max Fowler (R)

Outlook: Tossup. Ohno,

a freshman, defeated longtime Republican state Rep. Corinne Ching in 2012 when President Barack Obama's presence on the ballot helped lift Democratic contenders. Fowler, an associate pastor at Kakaako Christian Fellowship motivated to run after the gay marriage debate, could be formidable.

District 28 (Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley)

--House Vice Speaker

John Mizuno (D)

--Carole Kaapu (R)

Outlook: Democratic. Mizuno comfortably defeated Kaapu in 2012. The vice speaker, a Christian, has been active in the faith-based community in his district, but his decision to change his position and support marriage equality disappointed some fellow Christians.

District 33 (Halawa-Aiea-Newtown)

--Sam Kong (D)

--Arnold Wong (D)

--Tracy Arakaki (D)

--Robert Helsham (R)

Outlook: Open. Leans Democratic. Rep. K. Mark Takai's decision to run for Congress created an open seat. Kong, a florist, lost two House campaigns as a Republican before switching parties to run as a Democrat. Helsham, a consultant, athletic director at Christian Academy and worship minister at First Assembly of God Red Hill, is among the candidates backed by religious conservatives in the wake of the gay marriage debate.

District 36 (Mililani-Mililani Mauka-Waipio Acres)

--Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang (R)

--Marilyn Lee (D)

--Luella Costales (D)

Outlook: Leans Republican. Chang, a freshman, is one of the GOP's emerging young leaders. Lee, a former state representative who lost to Chang in 2012, is seeking a rematch. But Costales, who serves on the neighborhood board and the Honolulu Police Commission, could present a hurdle for Lee in the primary. The district's shifting suburban demographics make it a bellwether.

District 38 (Waipahu)

--Rep. Henry Aquino (D)

--Alex Sonson (D)

Outlook: Democratic. Aquino is chairman of the House Public Safety Committee. Sonson, an attorney and former state lawmaker, lost state Senate primary challenges to Sen. Clarence Nishihara in 2012 and 2008.

District 41 (Ewa Beach-West Loch Estates)

--Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D)

--Matt LoPresti (D)

--Steve Wiggins (R)

--Bryan Jeremiah (R)

--Tom Berg (L)

Outlook: Leans Democratic. Cabanilla, House majority floor leader, has held off several challenges since she first claimed the district in 2004, but rarely without drama. LoPresti, a Hawaii Pacific University philosophy professor who lost to Cabanilla in the primary in 2012, has secured several labor, environmental and progressive endorsements. Berg, a former city councilman who used to work for Cabanilla and twice unsuccessfully challenged her as a Republican, is running as a Libertarian.

District 42 (Kapolei-Makakilo)

--Rep. Sharon Har (D)

--Nicole Ferguson (D)

--Michael Golojuch (D)

--Suk Moses (R)

Outlook: Leans Democratic. Har, vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been targeted by gay rights and progressive activists for her vote against marriage equality and the perception she is too conservative. Ferguson, who teaches environmental biology at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu, just moved to the west side within the past year. Golojuch has led the Democratic Party of Hawaii's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender caucus. A three-way primary favors Har. Moses is the wife of former state Rep. Mark Moses, the Republican Har defeated when she claimed the swing district in 2006.

District 43 (Kalaleloa-

Ko Olina-Maili)

--Rep. Karen Awana (D)

--Stacelynn Eli (D)

--Andria Tupola (R)

Outlook: Leans Democratic. Awana resigned her post as House majority floor leader last year after her fourth fine for campaign-finance violations, which could make her vulnerable. Tupola, a music educator and Mormon who helped organize neighborhood protests against the special session on gay marriage, is among the GOP's best young prospects.

District 45 (Mililani-Schofield-Kunia)

--Rep. Lauren Cheape

Matsumoto (R)

--Michael Magaoay (D)

Outlook: Leans Republican. Matsumoto, a former Miss Hawaii, is a freshman with family roots in both the Mililani and Waialua portions of the district. Magaoay is a former state lawmaker attempting a comeback after two unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate.

District 47 (Waialua-Kahuku-Waiahole)

--Kent Fonoimoana (D)

--Feki Pouha (R)

Outlook: Open. Tossup. Rep. Richard Fale's decision to run for state Senate has created an opening for Democrats to reclaim the North Shore and Windward district. Former state Rep. Gil Riviere, who had lost to Fale in the House GOP primary in 2012, switched parties and became a Democrat with a rematch with Fale in mind. But with Riviere also now running for Senate, the race is wide open. Fonoimoana serves on the neighborhood board. Pouha, who has a personal finance business, is an ally of Fale's who could compete if gay marriage becomes a driving issue with voters.

District 48 (Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe)

--Robert Harris (D)

--Jarrett Keohokalole (D)

--Eldean Kukahiko (R)

--Kaimanu Takayama (L)

--Kana Naipo (N)

Outlook: Open. Leans Democratic. Rep. Jessica Wooley's appointment to the state Office of Environmental Quality Control created an open seat. Harris is director of the Sierra Club Hawaii. Keohokalole works on invasive-species issues for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Kukahiko, a retired police officer and a senior pastor at Hope Chapel Kahaluu, is among the candidates motivated by the gay marriage debate.

District 50 (Kailua-Kaneohe)

--Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R)

--Joan Hood (R)

--Holly Broman (D)

Outlook: Republican. Thielen, a leading voice on environmental and energy issues, is the only Republican in the Legislature who voted for marriage equality. Hood is an apostle for Pacific Realm-International Pentecostal Holiness Church. The primary could provide insight into whether gay marriage will become a significant campaign issue this year.

District 51 (Kailua-Lanikai-Waimanalo)

--Rep. Chris Lee (D)

--Wayne Hikida (R)

Outlook: Leans Democratic. Lee was the most visible House Democrat in the drive for marriage equality. Hikida is a retired insurance executive and former Mormon bishop influenced to run by the gay marriage debate.


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