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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

Election '02: Numbers point to busy season

Thanks to a new term-limit law for Honolulu City Council and a state Republican Party determined to challenge majority Democrats for control of the state House, the 2002 election season looks busier than it has in decades.

Also contributing to the rush of action is a reapportionment plan that threw some incumbents out of their home districts and forced all 25 state senators to run at the same time.

The test now will be to see whether all this produces little more than noise or whether it will truly spread out and elevate our statewide political dialogue in this crucial year.

With 412 candidates vying for everything from governor to school board, there should be no shortage of ideas out there. Let's hear them.

One anomaly: Despite the wide-open field this time around, nearly one out of every five seats in the Legislature will go uncontested. That includes eight seats in the Senate (all Democrats) and five in the House (three Democrats and two Republicans).

That represents 13 lost opportunities for debate and the contest of ideas. It also virtually guarantees that the Democrats will retain control of the state Senate, with its crucial powers of advice and consent, no matter who controls the House or the governor's seat.

In some ways, the hottest action through the Sept. 21 primary is in the county council races on Maui, the Big Island and particularly on O'ahu, where it is winner-takes-all if someone receives more than half the vote.

At least six of the nine seats on the O'ahu council will be filled by new faces, although some of those faces are familiar from other political offices.

The marquee race, of course, is for governor, where three well-known Democrats and two well-known Republicans are joined by no fewer than 15 other candidates.

It is imperative that the voters get substantial opportunities to hear those leading candidates, in both primaries, debate directly with each other.

The statewide race for lieutenant governor is also interesting this year. Both Republicans and Democrats have primary contests among experienced and talented candidates.

In raw numbers, at least, this looks to be a robust political year. Let's hope the candidates can match the numbers with the quality of their campaigns and and the quality of their ideas.