And They’re Off
The Race for the 2020 Elections Begin
Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the #blacklivesmatter protests, the 2020 elections officially kicked off with the June 2nd nomination papers filing deadline.
There are forty-one candidates running for State legislative office (21) and the County Council (20). In addition there are eighteen candidates running for the Congressional District 2 office (current Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard decided to run for the Democratic Presidential Nomination instead of reelection, leaving Hilo State Senator Kai Kahele as the most recognizable name in the race). For the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, there are ten running for the at-large seat, three running for the Molokai resident seat, three running for the Kaua‘i resident seat, and eleven running for the Hawai‘i resident seat.
Elected outright in the Primary
Only two candidates are unopposed in either the State legislative or County Council races. Elected outright (assuming each receives at least one vote) will be Councilwomen Alice Lee (Kahului) and Yuki Lei Sugimura (Upcountry).
Incumbents seek reelection
All eligible incumbents sought reelection. The only open seat without an incumbent is Lāna‘i where Councilmember G. Riki Hokama is term-limited. Seeking to replace him are Alberta deJetley, Gabe Johnson, and Matthew Mano.
To Be Decided in The Primary
Two legislative races will be decided in the primary. In House 8, Ka‘apuni Aiwohi and Robert G. Hill, III will challenge incumbent Troy Hashimoto. In House 12, Simon S. Russell challenges incumbent Kyle T. Yamashita.
Of Filipino ancestry
Two incumbents of Filipino ancestry are seeking reelection: State Senator Gilbert S. Coloma Keith-Agaran (who is the only state legislator of Filipino ancestry from Maui—and the first Senator of Filipino ancestry from Maui) and Molokai Councilwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez. Other candidates of Filipino ancestry include Kanamu Balinbin (running for House 10) and Rick Nava (running for West Maui Council).
In the State races where candidates run under a political party, thirteen are running as Democrats, three are running as Republicans, and five are running under a new party—Aloha ‘Āina, which became official on March 12: Rynette Ipo Keen (Senate 5), Kahala Jen Chrupalyk (House 9), Travis D.E. Gyldstrand (House 10), Howard Greenberg (House 11) and Theresa Kapaku (House 13). (Statewide, there are sixteen candidates running under the Aloha ‘Āina party, far short of the party’s goal of running a candidate in each race.)
In the County Council races, if there are only two candidates, that particular race will be decided in the General Election on November 3. Where there are more than two candidates, a primary race (August 8) will decide the top two proceeding to the General Election. There will be four Council races in the primary: West Maui, Kahului, Makawao, and Lāna‘i. In the West Maui race, Nava and Sne Patel will battle incumbent Tamara Akiko Maile Paltin. In the Kahului race, Deb Kaiwi and Carol Lee Kamekona will battle incumbent Tasha Kama. In the Makawao race, Aja Eyre and Laurent Zahnd will battle incumbent Mike Molina. (The Lana‘i race features the three candidates mentioned above.)
See you at the General
The three remaining Council races will proceed directly to the General Election ballot: East Maui, South Maui, and Molokai. The East Maui Council race features a rematch of 2018: Claire Kamalu Carroll versus incumbent Shane Sinenci. The Molokai race also features a rematch of 2018: Stacy Helm Crivello versus incumbent Rawlins-Fernandez. The South Maui race features Tom Cook versus Kelly Takaya King. (Carroll’s father used to represent East Maui while Crivello used to represent Molokai.)
“It’s the economy, stupid”
In 1992, the Bill Clinton presidential campaign used this phrase over and over again to emphasize that issue. Twenty-eight years later, this phrase is again important. But as they also say, the devil is in the details. Maui is now facing one of the highest unemployment rates in the State and the nation due to the pandemic. With over 44,900 Filipinos in Maui County alone and Filipinos constituting the second largest ethnic group in the State of Hawai‘i, the Filipino community constitutes the largest segment of hotel employees. How to quickly jumpstart the economy is on the minds of Maui’s Filipino community and each of the forty-one candidates was asked to respond (fifty words or less) to the following question and provide specific details of their economic plan:
Because of COVID 19’s disastrous impact on Maui’s economy, what are you specifically proposing to immediately address the needs of Maui’s unemployed?
The voters need to decide if they want the economy to move forward versus a slow-down.
Twenty-five candidates responded while sixteen did not respond.
“1) Let MAUI Work! 2) Temporarily exempt from GE Taxes: health care facilities, local food producers, farmers/ ranchers. 3) Encourage entrepreneurship loosening & lifting restrictions for: home-based businesses, obtaining permitting, licenses, & professional training certifications. 4) More Funding for C19 testing, treatment, and tracking, stations at airports to expedite reopening Tourism!”
Rynette Ipo Keen
“I would propose an immediate pay cut for all elected officials and Department Heads as these positions are public service positions. I would propose the immediate release of monies stashed in the State’s Rainy-Day Fund to continue funding the unemployment system for displaced workers and increase the current SNAP benefits.”
Gil S. Coloma Keith-Agaran
“Mauians must return to work safely and soon. DLIR must payout UI quicker. We gave Maui County/MEO $26million from CARES for rent/utilities, child care and fresh food. We provided Office of Community Services $2.1million and Human Services $2million for food purchases and expanding SNAP monthly benefits by almost $13million.”
“This crisis is the failure of our officials to properly plan. We need to invest in a sustainable industry that supports the local economy. The funds from the CARES act should be taken out of the rainy day fund and used for our local community at this absolute moment.”
“The State Legislature allocated $66.6 million of federal CARES funding to the County of Maui. These funds must be quickly deployed to help with food distributions, rental/housing assistance, business support, and many other social services to assist the community ranging from homelessness, to mental health, to job counseling.”
Robert G. Hill, III
“I support our hard working families and will push for any legislation that will help you keep more of your hard earned money for your family needs. Please vote for me!”
Kahala Jen Chrupalyk
“Rather than misappropriate funds, rental programs would cover more and temporary employment would be offered at the community level, until things go back to normal.”
Justin H. Woodson
“We first need to ensure all unemployment insurance applicants are processed. This has been slow, but we will get to everyone. Next, continue to highlight the assistance programs available. If you have a specific need, please call my office. We want to help. Lastly, reopen with safety measures in place.”
No responses were timely received from Kanamu Balinbin, Travis D.E. Gyldstrand, Angus L.K. McKelvey, and Leonard K. Nakoa, III.
Tina M.L. Wildberger
“Tina Wildberger, Kelly King and Keani Rawlins-Fernandez are providing Keiki meals, filling in the gaps this summer when the DoE can’t. My office is advocating for the DoH to get robust pre-trip testing for visitors and contact tracing on Maui, so we can welcome visitors and begin our economic recovery ASAP.”
No responses were timely received from Don Couch and Howard E. Greenberg.
Simon S. Russell
“Looking after our public sector workforce will be a top priority. Keeping the jobs we have is a must. Creating economic stimulus for those out of work is the next priority. Creating jobs rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and building low income workforce housing on government lands we will be a priority.”
Kyle T. Yamashita
“The Legislature is currently working on addressing unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. One way we are looking into using the CARES Act funding is to create temporary jobs that could serve the public statewide.”
No responses were timely received from Lynn P. DeCoite, Theresa Kapaku, Walter Ritte, and Robin Vanderpool.
East Maui Council
Claire Kamalu Carroll
“COVID-19 challenges Maui to rebuild our economy. Saving homes and developing a work trade program in agriculture. Working with farmers for more community worked farms. Work with State and Federal Representatives to extend unemployment. Not the time for raises in government jobs and increased taxes for Maui County.”
“I am proposing Agricultural production and food security measures in the county. I supported the appropriation of $2.5 million in micro-grants, for small farmers. I also support directing CARES’ Act funding directly to residents, to instantly stimulate the economy.”
West Maui Council
“The State should set up an auto response to people’s emails as well as phone calls. Similar to most businesses, a caller can be given an option to hold for the next available associate or an option to be called back. Further, the State’s unemployment office should remain open.”
Tamara Akiko Maile Paltin
“Paid internships for unemployed to train/work in other needed areas from $66M in CARES funding. I’ve voted to use funds to expand production of food. With the threat of less Young Brothers shipments, we need to increase our self-sufficiency to be able to ensure everyone has enough to eat.”
No response was timely received from Sne Patel.
No response was timely received from Alice L. Lee.
“Continue funding MEO’s H.E.L.P. program which assists underemployed and unemployed with financial assistance to meet their basic needs. Training in the emerging economies such as health care, child care, farming, ranching and technology. Provided $75,000 for emerging start up businesses in Kahului.”
Carol Lee Kamekona
“1. Make jobs available through farming while providing food for families. 2. Fund programs that assist families with housing, school supplies for children etc. 3. Provide assistance to those who need or want to change jobs. 4. Hold Community forums for input.”
No response was timely received from Deb Kaiwi.
South Maui Council
Kelly Takaya King
“Instead of paying overtime to already employed county workers, the county should utilize unemployed residents to fill in gap areas. This could immediately put a lot of folks back to work temporarily and also retrain them for higher paying, non-tourism jobs. Additionally, it would lower our costs of OT.”
No response was timely received from Tom Cook.
“Immediately, our residents need streamlined access to the unemployment benefits, and it needs continual state and federal funding. When I am elected, I will work tirelessly on empowering our economy through diversification, expanding career training options, supporting small agriculture, and decrease county taxes and hurdles to efficiency for small businesses.”
“I am proposing to the Mayor we increase the amount of COVID-19 monies for families in need and use these funds to provide work for our citizens by hiring temporary workers to assist the County with projects, maintenance and clerical needs.”
“1. Support families in need by bringing together public and private resources. 2. Rethink our tourism strategy around a “Safe Luxury” brand; airlines are offering to test people BEFORE boarding. 3. Support people to create or consolidate their own business; facilitate access to guidance, land, equipment, funding, marketing, & online sales.”
Yuki Lei Kashiwa Sugimura
“As a sitting Councilmember we worked to provide funding for rental assistance, food and other basic or social needs. I proposed to have real property tax payments made in 4 yearly payments versus twice and suggested waiving penalties. Supported construction projects and funding to manage a renewed tourist industry.”
“A refillable food debit card, similar to food stamps, will help people who are still waiting for their unemployment claims to be processed. It’s a very stressful time so the County can help by keeping the application form as simple as possible. It will benefit individuals as well as families.”
No responses were timely received from Gabe Johnson and Matthew J.K. Mano.
Stacy Helm Crivello
“Prepare and develop safe protocols for reopening Maui to visitors. To create a safe environment for visitors and residents, training capacity for Contact Tracing. Prohibit any increases in taxes and fees that increase the cost of doing business. Promote construction jobs with concentration on Affordable Housing Projects and Public Infrastructure.”
“As the Council’s Economic Development and Budget Committee Chair, I proposed increasing funding for families through the Hawai‘i Emergency Laulima Partnership program. As a long-term solution, I proposed creating a program to pay those who continue to collect unemployment to also receive career training, in new, higher paying, stable industries.”
The 2020 Primary Election on August 3 is less than sixty days away and with voting by mail, your ballot will arrive sometime in mid-July so it’s not too early to start thinking about who to vote for.
It’s your right and duty as an American to vote.
Alfredo G. Evangelista has voted in every election since 1976. He is a graduate of Maui High School (1976), the University of Southern California (1980), and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law (1983). A sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, he concentrates in estate planning, business formation and counseling, nonprofit corporations, and litigation. In private practice since 1983 (36 years), he returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Tumacder Idica.