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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 10:50 a.m., Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Few free rides in election

 •  BOE races include prominent people who want reform
 •  Candidates for the Sept. 18 primary election

By Gordon Y.K. Pang and Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Democrats and Republicans will go head-to-head in all but six of 63 House and Senate races in what is shaping up to be one of the more competitive legislative elections in decades.

Gov. Linda Lingle, at a news conference yesterday with Republican candidates for the state House and Senate, said the goal is to win control of the House. The GOP fielded candidates in all but five races.

Photos by Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

Yesterday was the deadline for candidates who want to run this fall to submit their nomination papers with the Office of Elections.

By 4:30 p.m., candidates from both major parties had filed to run in all but three of the 51 House seats and three of 12 Senate seats that will be decided this year.

The deadline also applied to candidates for congressional, city, county, Board of Education and Office of Hawaiian Affairs races.

Three Democratic senators are unopposed this election: Lorraine Inouye, D-1st (Hamakua, S. Hilo); David Ige, D-16th (Pearl City, 'Aiea); and Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa).

Two Democratic House incumbents are unopposed: Dwight Takamine, D-1st (N. Hilo, Hamakua, N. Kohala) and K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Pearl City, Newtown, Royal Summit). Freshman Republican Rep. Lynn Finnegan, R-32nd (Aliamanu, Airport, Mapunapuna) is the sole GOP House member who will be able to cruise to re-election.

Only one of 51 House members and none of the 12 senators whose terms are up this year chose not to seek re-election. The exception was Rep. Eric Hamakawa, D-3rd (Hilo, Kea'au, Mt. View), the high-profile chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who decided not to seek a sixth, two-year term.

GOP Gov. Linda Lingle and other Republicans say their goal this year is to win control of the House, where the Democrats hold a 36-15 advantage. Short of that, Republicans want to increase their numbers to 18 in the House, which could provide enough votes to block any attempts to override Lingle vetoes.

Lingle said her administration has been able to achieve a lot "but not as much as we wanted, and that's what this election is all about.

"It's our opportunity to go out as a party, talk with people all across the state about what happened and what didn't happen during this past legislative session and it's going to be up to our candidates to go out and talk with the public about what they hope to achieve," she said.

Democratic Party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria said Democrats want to at least maintain the advantage they have in the Legislature and possibly gain more, but that they are "leaving it up to the voters."
Democratic Party chairman Brickwood Galuteria, however, said Democrats want at least to maintain the seats they have in the Legislature and possibly gain more. "We're leaving it up to the voters," he said. "We're giving them a choice."

The Republican effort took a hit last week when first-term Rep. Brian Blundell, R-10th (W. Maui), was arrested by an undercover police officer Thursday at Kapi'olani Park on a count of fourth-degree sexual assault. Before the arrest, Blundell did not appear to have any competition.

Yesterday, Democrats Gretchen McKelvey and Kameo Tanaka filed nomination papers for Blundell's seat. McKelvey, 26, of Lahaina, said she works for her mother's business, an online travel agency. Tanaka, according to Democratic officials, is the half brother of former Maui Democratic Sen. Joe Tanaka.

The GOP fielded candidates in all but four House races in the 2002 election, and could not find candidates to run in nine House districts in 2000. The Democrats ran in all but two House races in the last election, and stayed away from four House races in 2000.

Both parties are trying to paint themselves as the place to go for a new generation and paraded fresh faces yesterday.

First-time candidate Stefanie Sakamoto-Sato, one of two Democrats seeking to unseat first-time Rep. Corinne Ching, R-27th (Liliha, Pu'unui), said she comes from a "very, very working-class family" that has always voted for Democrats. The 28-year-old Sakamoto-Sato has been communications director in the legislative office of Sen. Shan Tsutsui, D-4th (Kahului).

Among the new Republicans is former football standout Craig Stutzmann, now a 24-year-old teacher at St. Louis School. Stutzmann, who is challenging Rep. Scott Saiki, D-22nd (McCully, Pawa'a), said his family has always lived by Republican principles.

This year's election includes races for Honolulu mayor, the U.S. House of Representatives, every House seat and half of the Senate. Half of the Honolulu City Council seats and the Honolulu city prosecutor's position are also up for election.

Former City Council members Duke Bainum and Mufi Hannemann had filed their nomination papers last week for Honolulu mayor, perhaps the most closely watched race in the state. Mayor Jeremy Harris, the incumbent since 1994, is barred by term limits from running for another four-year term.

Also in that election is former Mayor Frank Fasi, who finished third behind Harris and Hannemann in the 2000 mayoral election.

Four of five Honolulu City Council incumbents have chosen to run for re-election: Barbara Marshall (District 3), Ann Kobayashi (District 5), Romy Cachola (District 7) and Nestor Garcia (District 9). Two of them — Garcia and Kobayashi — are running uncontested.

District 1 Councilman Mike Gabbard is the only incumbent council member not running for re-election, having chosen instead to challenge freshman Congressman Ed Case.

Another key race will be the campaign for Honolulu prosecutor. Current Prosecutor Peter Carlisle is being challenged by his predecessor, Keith Kaneshiro.

Advertiser reporter Christie Wilson also contributed to this report. Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com. Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or reach either at 525-8070.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said state Rep. Jun Abinsay (D-29th) is unopposed for re-election.