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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Arakaki out of race for House

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Dennis Arakaki

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State Rep. Dennis Arakaki, who has been an advocate for health and child protection issues during his two decades in the Legislature, announced yesterday that he would not run for re-election this year.

Arakaki, D-30th (Moanalua, Kalihi Valley), the chairman of the House Health Committee, said he wanted to spend more time helping neglected children in Hawai'i and internationally and hopes to create a global youth center.

Arakaki was first elected to the state House in 1985. During his legislative career, he served as majority floor leader and chairman of the human services, housing and Hawaiian affairs committees.

This session, he helped pass bills that would extend basic healthcare coverage to uninsured children and prohibit smoking in public places such as bars and airports.

"I think 20 years is like a benchmark," Arakaki said last night. "I look back and think I accomplished a lot, but not by myself, of course."

Arakaki is the co-founder of the Keiki Caucus and is known for his work on healthcare, mental health and child welfare issues.

He pressured the state Department of Human Services for several years to release documents related to Peter Boy Kema, an abused Big Island child who disappeared from his parents under mysterious circumstances in 1997.

The department released records about the unsolved case last year and changed its administrative rules to allow child welfare information to be shared publicly if it might help find missing children.

"I consider him my compadre in the House," said state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, D-13th (Kalihi, Nu'uanu), the chairwoman of the Senate Human Services Committee. "I think it will be a very big loss for the Legislature."

State House Speaker Calvin Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise), said Arakaki has had a distinguished legislative career. "In his 20 years as a state lawmaker, he is known as a compassionate and tireless advocate, and has accomplished much to improve our community in the areas of health and human services," he said in a statement.

"On behalf of the House of Representatives, I want to thank Representative Arakaki for his devotion to public service and to wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.