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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 3:50 a.m., Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Democrats gain seats in House

Full election coverage
Get detailed, updated results and read about the races and candidates in our Election 2004 special report, which includes our Voters' Guide.

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Democrats increased their strength in the state House of Representatives this morning, turning back Republicans who had hoped to erase the Democrats' veto-proof majority.

With all but a few votes counted, Democrats picked up five seats, knocking off six Republican incumbents while losing one of their own.

The returns appear to signal a crucial setback for GOP Gov. Linda Lingle and the Republican Party of Hawai'i, which had put enormous effort into grabbing more seats in the House. Democrats have held a 36-15 majority the past two years.

Lingle and the Republicans were hoping to grab 18 of the 51 House seats, the magic number to block any Democratic moves to override Lingle vetoes. During the election season, Lingle attended rallies, waved signs and even walked door-to-door for GOP House candidates, actions previously unheard of for an incumbent governor.

Democrat Kyle Yamashita was defeating Rep. Kika Bukoski, R-12th (Upcountry Maui). Two years ago, Bukoski defeated Yamashita by more than 1,300 votes. Meanwhile, educator Lila Berg outpaced Rep. Bertha Leong, R-18th (Kahala, Aina Haina, Kuli'ou'ou), Kona physician Joshua Green beat Rep. Mark Jernigan, R-6th (Kailua-Keauhou) and newcomer Kam Tanaka defeated Rep. Brian Blundell, R-10th (W. Maui). Blundell pleaded no contest to charges that he sexually assaulted an undercover Honolulu police officer near Kapi'olani Park last summer.

Also, Rep. Guy Ontai, R-37th (Mililani, Waipio), lost to newcomer Brian Yamane while Rep. David Pendleton, R-49th (Kane'ohe, Maunawili, Enchanted Lake), was defeated by Pono Chong.

In the only toppling of a Democrat, first-term Rep. Romy Mindo, D-43rd ('Ewa Beach, West Loch), lost to Kymberly Pine, the chief of the House Minority Research Office.

Lingle acknowledged Republicans were not able to make gains in the House.

"We had hoped that we could pick up seats in the Legislature so that we could address some of the issues that the public put us in office to deal with, and it doesn't look like we're going to get a majority," the governor said. "But I want the public to know that the lieutenant governor and I are committed to addressing the issues they feel are important. We've always tried to reach out and work with everyone. We didn't get the cooperation we felt we should and I think that's why you saw so many Democrats when they campaigned this time saying, 'I really get along well with the governor.' "

In the Senate, Democrats maintained their 20-5 lead. State House Minority Leader Galen Fox, R-23rd (WaikÓki, Kaka'ako), said last night that while there were still several close races where Republicans trailed only slightly, he acknowledged the results had not gone as he expected. "I'm very disappointed," Fox said. "We had some good candidates and we were hopeful that would take us over."

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki, D-22nd (McCully, Pawa'a), said the results show Lingle has neither political coattails nor a political mandate for change despite her continued personal popularity. The strong showing by Democrats in the face of Lingle's efforts "sends a message that the Democratic candidates do offer an agenda that appeals to voters. I've always said that voters in Hawai'i share Democratic values and the election results reflect that," Saiki said.

Both party chairmen remained cautious.

Brickwood Galuteria, chairman of the Hawai'i Democratic Party, said "by (the Republicans') own benchmarks, they and the governor aren't winning tonight."

Brennon Morioka, GOP chairman, said he did not believe the Democrats would be able to hold onto the gains they were showing after the early returns.

But if the Republicans were to end the evening with fewer seats, he said, "that tells me we need to do a better job in getting our message across. I don't think it's a referendum on the Lingle Administration. I'm just worried that (the Democrats) will make it much more difficult for her to push her programs."

Several incumbents survived close races including Ken Hiraki, D-28th (Iwilei, Downtown, Makiki); Mike Kahikina, D-44th (Nanakuli, Honokai Hale); Mike Magaoay, D-46th (Kahuku, North Shore, Schofield); Blake Oshiro, D-33rd (Halawa, 'Aiea, Pearlridge); Bud Stonebraker, R-17th (Hawai'i Kai, Kalama Valley) and Corinne Ching, R-27th (LIliha, Pu'unui).

In the Senate, two Democratic incumbents easily beat back Republican challengers. Sen. Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua'i, Ni'ihau) defeated Republican and former Kaua'i Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, while Sen. Roz Baker, D-5th (W. Maui, S. Maui) won re-election against Republican Don Couch, an aide to Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa.

The Republicans also lost a Senate seat with Sen. Paul Whalen, (R-Kohala, Kona, Ka'u) beating Republican Democrat Steven Fox, a self-employed entrepreneur.

Meanwhile, Democrat Clayton Hee returned to the Senate by besting Republican Jim Henshaw for the 23rd Senate District seat encompassing Kane'ohe and Kahuku. Hee defeated incumbent Democrat Melodie Aduja in the primary.

Advertiser staff writers Lynda Arakawa, Peter Boylan, Will Hoover and Mike Leidemann contributed to this report. Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.