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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:16 a.m., Wednesday, November 6, 2002

State’s political balance shifting in Legislature

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Hawai‘i Republicans lost four of their 19 seats in the House, but increased their number from three to five in the state Senate.

Yesterday’s election brings more than a dozen new faces to the 76-member Legislature, largely a result of new districts created last year and several vacancies. State lawmakers’ terms begin upon election.

The Republicans, who had occupied 19 seats since 2000, also will lose some of the procedural power they enjoyed in the past two sessions. House rules require 17 members to pull bills bottled up in committee.

The Republicans are still a minority in the 51-member House and 25-member Senate.

The Hawai‘i Democratic Party pulled no punches to help its candidates. Perhaps its most noticeable effort was mailing voters brochures that attempted to link Hawai‘i Republicans to Mainland corporate interests and oil companies. Many Republicans opposed legislation passed this year that would set price caps on gasoline, a bill hailed by the Democrats.

“We’re confident that in the House we’re going to do well,” said Hawai‘i Democratic Party chairwoman Lorraine Akiba. “We have a lot of great new candidates who worked very hard against Republican incumbents.”

House Minority Leader Galen Fox said the Democrats sent out “distorted hit pieces.”

“They really targeted a few of our people,” said House Minority Leader Galen Fox of the Democrats. “They really went after them with everything they had.”

Three of the five defeated Republican incumbents were ousted by Democrats in their 20s and 30s.

The younger Democratic candidates elected last night have been touted by the party as a significant addition to the new generation of reform-minded, progressive Democrats in the House.

Republican Rep. Emily Auwae was defeated by 32-year-old Democrat Maile Shimabukuro, an attorney, in the race for the 45th District (Wai‘anae, Makaha). Political observers have pointed to the race as one to watch.

Republican Rep. Joe Gomes, an attorney, was defeated by 37-year-old Democrat and deputy public defender Tommy Waters in the 51st District covering Waimanalo and Lanikai.

Republican Rep. Mindy Jaffe lost the race for the 21st District (Kapahulu, Diamond Head) to 28-year-old Democrat Scott Nishimoto, a law clerk. Both Democrats and Republicans highlighted that race as one to watch.

In a rematch, former Democratic Rep. Sol Kaho‘ohalahala beat GOP incumbent Ron Davis in the 13th District race covering East Maui, Moloka‘i and Lanai. Davis had defeated Kaho‘ohalahala in 2000.

Republican Rep. Jim Rath, elected to the House in 1998, lost the race for the 7th District (North Kona, South Kohala) to Democrat Cindy Evans.

In the Senate, the Republican caucus gained two more members in newly drawn districts.

Republican Big Island Rep. Paul Whalen defeated former Democratic lawmaker Virginia Isbell for the new 3rd Senate District (Kohala, Kona, Ka‘¨) by a large margin. Yesterday’s contest was the fourth time the two have run against each other.

Republican Gordon Trimble, a private foundation asset manager, defeated Honolulu City Councilman Jon Yoshimura in the new 12th District covering Waikiki, Ala Moana and downtown.

In other Senate races, former Democratic state Sen. Roz Baker defeated Republican Don Couch, an administrator with the Pacific Disaster Center, in a close race for the 5th Senate District covering West and South Maui.

Democrat Melodie Aduja, a lawyer, beat House Republican caucus aide Lacene Terri for the Kahuku–Kane‘ohe 23rd District seat. Aduja defeated incumbent Sen. Bob Nakata in the primary election.

Other House races with no incumbent:

• Former TV reporter Glenn Wakai, a Democrat, defeated Republican managing consultant Brad Sakamoto in the 31st District covering Salt Lake and Tripler.

• Republican Lynn Finnegan, a mortgage loan officer, beat Democratic lawmaker Ben Cabreros in the 32nd District covering ¸liamanu and the airport area. Cabreros, whose Kalihi district was combined with fellow Democrat Felipe “Jun” Abinsay’s, had to move into the 32nd District vacated by Republican congressional candidate Bob McDermott.

• Democrat Kirk Caldwell, an attorney, was victorious over Republican Nadine Nishioka in the Manoa district.

• Republican Corinne Ching, a public-school teacher, defeated Democrat Jennifer Waihe‘e, an attorney, for the 27th District covering Liliha and Pu‘unui.

• Democrat Alex Sonson, a lawyer, won the race for the new 35th District covering Waipahu and Crestview, beating Republican John Nuusa.

• Democrat and martial arts instructor Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo defeated Republican Alfonso Jiminez, a physician, in the 42nd District covering ‘Ewa and Waipahu.

• Democrat Unity House staffer Romeo Mindo defeated Republican campaign consultant Pam Lee Smith in a close race for the new 43rd District covering ‘Ewa Beach.

• Former Democratic lawmaker Bob Herkes won in a three-way election for the new 5th House District covering Ka‘¨ and S. Kona. Herkes was followed by Green Party candidate Jack Kelly and Republican Vern Vance.

• Republican businessman Mark Jernigan was victorious over Democrat Marni Herkes, executive director of the Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce, in the 6th House District covering Kailua and Keauhou on the Big Island.

• Republican Brian Blundell, owner of Central Pacific Marine, beat Democrat deputy public defender Jim Rouse in the new 10th House District covering West Maui.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.