Post-Fire Election Slate Set. Local Candidates File to Run

Post-Fire Election Slate Set. Local Candidates File to Run

Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor | All Photos are Courtesy Each Candidate

And just like that … the 2024 elections are right around the corner. In two months, the Hawai‘i primary election will be held on Saturday, August 10 with the general election less than three months later on Tuesday, November 5.

While most eyes will be focused on the Presidential election featuring a rematch between current president Joseph Biden and former president Donald Trump (yes, there are a few third-party candidates), there are several important local races, some featuring rematches.

Senator Hashimoto, Representative Woodson and Councilmembers Johnson and Sinenci are unopposed and automatically elected.

In the State Legislature, all of Maui’s Senators and State Representatives are up for re-election. In the County of Maui, the Mayor’s race is two years away but all Council members are up for re-election … and all current office holders filed for re-election. (In case you’re wondering, the Governor’s race is also two years away.)

Following a legislative session focusing on addressing the aftermath of the August 2023 West Maui and Upcountry fires, reforming the impact of the general excise tax on medical services, and ending with an unexpected income tax cut aimed at the cost of living, Maui’s nine member all-Democratic Senate and House delegation are seeking another term.

In Central Maui, State Senator Troy N. Hashimoto, a Democrat, is running to complete the term of retired State Senator Gil Keith-Agaran in Senate District 5. “I am running for the State Senate to continue representing Central Maui because it is critically important to advocate for our education system, affordable housing, and a vibrant economy,” Hashimoto explains. “The end goal is for local residents to have a future on Maui and not move off the island. It will take all of us working together in a collaborative manner and I promise to continue working hard every day.” As no one filed against Hashimoto, he will be elected if he collects at least one vote in the primary.

This marks the fourth consecutive time since 2012 that the Senate incumbent (Shan Tsutsui in 2012, Keith-Agaran in 2016 and 2020; Keith-Agaran had a primary and general election opponent in the 2014 special elections to complete Tsutsui’s term) has faced no opposition in Central Maui; Hashimoto also drew no opponent in his 2022 re-election to his Wailuku House seat. (The 2020 Reapportionment scheduled Senate Districts 6 and 7 for two-year terms in 2022 and four-year terms after this election, with Senate District 5 up again in 2026.)
Kahului State Representative Justin H. Woodson, also a Democrat, is running for re-election in House District 9. “I feel humbled to continue to serve the community,” says Woodson. “There is still much to do.” Like Hashimoto, no one filed against Woodson so the House Education Committee chair will be re-elected.

The race for House District 10 will be decided by the voters in the Democratic primary.


State Representative Tyson K. Miyake, a Democrat, is running in House District 10 (he was appointed after Hashimoto was elevated to the State Senate). “I am running for re-election to continue our progress and strengthen our community in State House District 10,” he says. “Born and raised on Maui, my dedication to public service is deeply rooted in the values instilled by my parents, David and Irene Miyake, who taught me the importance of hard work and commitment to others. With your support, I will keep fighting for affordable housing, quality education, and a resilient economy.” Prior to his appointment, Miyake worked as a government affairs consultant. He also served as chief of staff to former Maui Mayor Mike Victorino and as deputy county managing director.


Miyake is opposed by fellow Democrat Jeremiah Savage. “As a dedicated parent and community member, I am running for State House to prioritize safety, infrastructure, cost of living, and education in Central Maui,” states Savage. “As a father whose son was born and raised on Maui and attends ‘Īao Middle School, I understand the challenges we face—from education and cost of living to job security and affordable housing—to secure a vibrant future for our keiki. Here in Maui, I’ve contributed to our community by serving on nonprofit boards, a county commission, working for the County of Maui, and working with Maui nonprofits to bring money from the mainland into Maui’s economy.” Savage is a financial advisor who served as Deputy Finance Director in former Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration.

Two incumbent State Representatives need to beat back a fellow Democrat in the primary and their respective Republican challenger to keep their seat.


The East Maui-Molokai-Lāna‘i legislative seat features a rematch. State Representative Mahina Poepoe, a Democrat, is running for re-election in House District 13 after beating then-appointed State Representative Linda Ha‘i Clark in the 2022 Democratic Party Primary Election. “Halo friend, my name is Mahina Poepoe and I am running for re-election to the State House of Representatives, District 13,” says Poepoe. “I will continue to work hard to improve the quality of life for our families by reducing the cost of living, increasing access to healthcare, strengthening our public and higher education systems, creating more opportunities for affordable housing, protecting our environment, and expanding support services such as child and elder care. I’ve worked hard every day to deliver results that are reflective of my unwavering commitment to our people and ‘āina and I humbly ask for your support.”

Fellow Democrat Clark is seeking to replace Poepoe as well as Republican Scott Adam (who lost to Poepoe in the 2022 General Election, 5,827-2,084).


State Representative Elle Cochran, a Democrat, is running for re-election in House District 14. “Aloha and Mabuhay! I am running to continue representing all of House District 14 that spans from Mā‘alaea-West Maui-Kahakuloa-Waiehu,” Cochran says, the only Filipino in the Maui Nui legislative delegation. “My focus will be on our Filipino community that makes up the majority of our Lahaina residents. Mahalo and Salamat Po for your continued and future support!”

Fellow Democrat Kanamu Balinbin filed to run against Cochran as well as Republican Kelly J. Armstrong. Cochran beat Armstrong 3,759-2,070 in 2022.


Upcountry State Representative Kyle T. Yamashita, a Democrat and chair of the powerful House Finance Committee, is running for re-election in House District 12. He will face Republican Dan Johnson and Green party candidate Rita M. Ryan. Yamashita beat Johnson 7,085-2,118 two years ago.

“I’m running for office because I love Maui and everything about this island that sets it apart from the rest of the world, and it saddens me when local families can no longer afford to live here and are forced to leave,” explains Johnson. “I’m a husband, a father of two young children, and was born and raised on Maui with four generations family here, and after graduating from UH Manoa with a degree in Finance, I’ve navigated a successful career in project management over the past decade, and through my experience I have come to understand many of the core reasons for our state’s exceptionally high cost of living. My heart is to prioritize reducing the cost of living through state tax adjustments, incentivizing local homeownership, while preserving our values, liberties, land, resources, and restoring our community.”


Maui’s other State Representative Terez Amato, a Democrat, is running for a second term in House District 11 (South Maui) and faces Republican Aileen R. (Lily) Acain. “Maui deserves a Representative who in just the last two years has successfully fought for over $50 Million for Kīhei for two hundred teacher and affordable workforce housing units, preschool early education, funding for flood and fire mitigation, much needed school repairs, the biggest working family income tax break in Hawai‘i’s history, while eliminating tax on Medicare/Medicaid and increasing medical caregiver reimbursement,” Amato declares. “In 2025 I’ll continue to fight for our kūpuna, union and hospitality workers, striking nurses, the disabled, teacher pay raises, a living wage, local farmers, expanded healthcare, CNA/nurse education and reducing student debt, because we must care for and support those who choose to dedicate their lives to caring for our families and keiki. I grew up on Maui (see and refuse ALL corporate and lobbyist contributions because this election you deserve a Representative who is #WorkingForThePeople, not for big corporations and lobbyists, a Representative who is working for you!”

Maui’s two other State Senators have attracted GOP opponents.


State Senator Angus L.K. McKelvey, a Democrat, is running for re-election in Senate District 6 (West Maui-South Maui). “I am running for re-election to continue the fight to protect Hawai‘i and its most important resource—our people,” he says. “If re-elected I will work to implement the funding and policies we have passed last session including our working-class family tax cut and to secure funds needed for Maui’s recovery. I am committed to our survival, healing, and resilience.”

Republican Sheila Walker has filed to set up a rematch against McKelvey. McKelvey beat Walker 9,387-4,634 in 2022.


State Senator Lynn Pualani DeCoite, a Democrat, is running for re-election in Senate District 7. “I am running to continue my commitment to serving my entire Senate District, mauka to makai, on each island and ensuring that all of my constituents have access to services and resources no matter where they live,” explains DeCoite. “I am also committed and willing to work with EVERYONE in our communities to ensure a better future for all of Hawai‘i Nei.”

DeCoite will face Republican Gabby Macaraeg.

At the local level, control of the County Council will again be at stake. Two Maui Councilmembers, currently in the minority of the Council, are unopposed and will be re-elected.

Both are focused on the fire impacts. In the East Maui Residence District, Councilmember Shane Sinenci is focusing on rebuilding Lahaina. “As a graduate of Lahainaluna High School, my thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by the August fires,” Sinenci states. “Rebuilding Lahaina will take a monumental task and if re-elected, I will work hard to bring back economic vibrancy as we recover and heal our community.”

For the Lāna‘i District, Councilmember Gabe Johnson is also focused on the wildfire survivors. “I am running for office to continue advocating for our working class and the folks who need help the most. My focus will be helping wildfire survivors and making sure our nonprofits are funded,” promises Johnson. “The people of Maui County have needs that we must address.”

Two Councilmembers will need to win in the primary and general to retain their seats as there are three candidates running for each of those two seats.


In the South Maui District, Councilmember Tom Cook is running for re-election. “From starting as an apprentice carpenter to becoming a successful general contractor in 1989, I have honed my building and problem-solving skills through hands-on experience,” Cook says. “Over the years, I have managed a company with over forty employees, navigated the complexities of building permits, and balanced the demands of paying rent, mortgages, and caring for both children and grandparents. These life experiences have equipped me with the insights and empathy needed to effectively continue serving Maui County on the County Council.”


Cook is opposed by former Councilmember Kelly Takaya King who gave up the seat to run unsuccessfully for Mayor in 2022 (she finished third in the Primary behind then-incumbent Mayor Michael Victorino and retired Judge Richard Bissen). “Urged by hundreds of Mauians who have seen a continued attempt by the current council to push for outside interests to take over our resources–especially public water rights–I am running for re-election to my previously held Council seat to again take up the advocacy for pono prosperity that every Maui resident deserves,” King explains. “In my previous terms I was able to usher in affordable housing/rental projects (two of which were completed and housed the lowest income tenants during my tenure), pass important environmental protections for our shoreline waters, wetlands, endangered species, etc., and address infrastructure concerns including innovative wastewater solutions and pushing for Kīhei’s much-needed North South Collector Road. I would also like to revive crucial programs I had started, such as the Maui Youth Council, the Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee and real houseless solutions (i.e., the overnight parking pilot project) that were eliminated after I left the council in 2022.”


Johnny Keoni Prones is also running for the South Maui seat. “I’m for the people of Maui County. I’m here to Listen to the residents of Maui County and the Community,” Prones declares. “Rewrite the history of the State of Hawai‘i and ask our Leaders and Lawmakers.”


In the Upcountry District, Councilmember Yuki Lei Kashiwa Sugimura, chair of the Council money committee, is running for re-election. “It has been an honor to represent the Upcountry residency area on the Maui County Council over the last eight years, serving as the Budget Chair and Council Vice-Chair over the last two years,” Sugimura says. “Throughout the years, I have worked to bring our local families together through community events such as the Barrio Fiesta, Maui AgFest, and Maui Matsuri. I am seeking reelection to continue working with our community as we face a long recovery ahead.”


Sugimura is challenged by Edward (Ed) Codelia and Jocelyn N. Cruz. “I am running for Maui County Council because I firmly believe that my voice on a council of nine will make a meaningful difference for the present and future of Maui County and its residents,” states Codelia.

With only two candidates filing in five of the Council races (Kahului, Makawao-Ha‘ikū-Pā‘ia, Molokai, Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapū and West Maui), those match ups will not appear until the General election.


In the Kahului District, Councilmember Tasha Kama, chair of the Council Housing Committee, is seeking another term. “I am running for re-election to increase our housing inventory and bring down the price of housing. Along with that I want to diversify our economy by increasing entrepreneurial ship programs,” Kama says. “Maui is the home of four generations of Kama’s and I want to ensure this ‘āina will always be here for them and for those yet to be born.”


Carol Lee Kamekona is again opposing Kama. “As a passionate advocate for Maui, I’m running to enact actionable change fueled by innovation, progress, and the grit to take on our most pressing issues,” explains Kamekona. “My 22-year Navy veteran background instills values of strong leadership, responsibility, and a profound commitment to our community’s welfare. Advancing affordable housing, supporting sustainable agriculture, and diversifying our economy are my top priorities to ensure a better future for our seven generations.” Kamekona ran in 2022 but did not advance to the General Election against Kama.


In the Makawao-Ha‘ikū-Pā‘ia District, Councilmember Nohe U‘u-Hodgins says, “As a proud native of Pā‘ia, Maui, I cherish my island roots and am grateful to call Maui my home.” U‘u-Hodgins adds, “With a background in the construction industry, I bring invaluable expertise from my roles as Permit Expediter and Advisor. Now serving my inaugural term on the Maui County Council, I represent the Makawao, Ha‘ikū, Pā‘ia residency area with dedication, determined to address pressing challenges and ensure a brighter future for generations to come.”


U‘u-Hodgins will face a familiar opponent in Nara Boone. “I am running for Maui County Council’s Makawao-Ha‘ikū-Pā‘ia seat because it’s never been more important to have COMMUNITY VOICES at decision making tables,” declares Boone. “As Maui recovers and rebuilds, our focus needs to be on housing the fabric of our society; our cashiers, farmers, school staff, hotel/healthcare workers, etc. Please vote for all nine council seats, and when you do, please check the BOONE box.” U‘u-Hodgins beat back Boone 25,196-19,409 in 2022.

In the Molokai District, Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez faces a re-match with John Pele whom she defeated 25,448-18,797 in 2022.


In the Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapū District, Councilmember and Council Chair Alice L. Lee states “I am running for re-election because I care deeply about our community and I want my grandchildren to be able to live, work and thrive in the place I call home.” The Council leader says “We are facing unprecedented economic challenges from the August 2023 wildfires coupled with a severe housing crisis that was exacerbated by the fires, and these serious issues require serious deliberation. My years of experience in the private and public sectors, and my family’s roots in our community, help me to best serve the people of Maui County by bringing fairness, openness, civility, collaboration, and balance to our County Council as we address these critical issues.”

James (Nahele) Forrest filed to run against Lee. “Aloha, I’m James ‘Nahele’ Forrest and I’m a friendly attorney running for Maui County Council so I can help locals thrive and have a better quality of life,” declares Forrest. “Maui’s luxury hotels make hundreds of millions in profit each year so it’s time to give our Union workers 25% raises so they can afford housing and have plenty left over to take care of their families. Filipino workers helped build our islands and they deserve to have their communities revitalized and supported in recognition for their generations of service.”

Lee won re-election two years ago in one of the closest Council races, 22,733-22,220.


In the West Maui District, Councilmember Tamara Akiko Maile Paltin is running for re-election. Lorien (Lolo) Acquientas has filed to run against Paltin. “As a born and raised Hawaiian, a father, and business owner I understand the needs of our community,” Acquientas expresses. “I will help restore balance in Maui by breaking down the walls of division and being a bridge so we can work together. I would like to see a Maui where our kūpuna live in dignity and where our keiki can grow old because Maui deserves to thrive not just survive.”


In the federal races, Hawai‘i junior U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat, is seeking a third six-year term. In the national contest for control of the U.S. Senate, Hawai‘i is considered a safe Democratic seat. “As your U.S. Senator, I’m fighting on your side every day to lower costs and make life better for people and families in Hawai‘i, including the Filipino community,” states Hirono. “Whether working to expand educational opportunities for our keiki, strengthen critical programs like Social Security and Medicare for our seniors, or confirm fair and objective judges, I’m committed to ensuring our communities have the support they deserve. I’m running for reelection to build on the progress we’ve made and defend our democracy, and I humbly ask for your vote in this election.”

Running against Hirono in the Democratic primary are Ron Curtis and Clyde McClain (Mac) Lewman. Hirono won her current term by defeating then-Republican Curtis 276,316 in the 2018 General Election; she beat former Hawai‘i GOP Governor Linda Lingle 269,489-160,994 in 2012.


For the Republicans, the battle is between Melba Amaral, Paul Dolan, Adriel C. Lam, Bob McDermott, Arturo P. Reyes and Emmanuel Tipon. The most well-known is former State Representative McDermott who lost a 2022 bid against Hawai‘i senior U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (Schatz beat McDermott decisively 37,646-11,226 in Maui Nui and 290,894-106,358 statewide).

“Aloha, It is a GOOD day in Hawai‘i to announce my candidacy for U.S Senate,” Amaral says. “Hawai‘i is in desperate need of new representation in Congress. We need to pass ‘common sense’ legislation and the Will of the People is consulted and put forth when making public policies that affect them.”


“Hawai‘i is a strategic center and economic/cultural pathway to the Pacific,” declares Lam. “We can do better in harnessing the talents and energy of the people of Hawai‘i in making ourselves a hub of choice and place for our future generations to come home to. We can Make Hawai‘i Home Again, we can Make Hawai‘i Great Again.”


“‘Let us make Hawai‘i a Paradise again’ is my vision, with a landscape of beautiful scenery instead of homeless encampments, smoothly paved roads, and other things that make life in Hawai‘i enjoyable, which can be done by getting from the federal government at least $5 billion for infrastructure plus $1 billion for the Maui fire victims, because we should ‘Love Americans First’ rather than Ukrainians who were given $61 billion. I will demand that U.S. immigration authorities allow Filipinos to visit the U.S. without a visa because a visa requirement denies the equal protection of the laws since Japanese and Germans who killed Americans in WWII are not required to have visas,” promises Tipon. “I can and will help you achieve these–which the incumbent has not done—because I am a Yale-educated lawyer with a Fulbright scholarship who is well-respected, articulate, friendly, open-minded, helpful, cares about others, and believes that with God all things are possible.”

Hirono also faces Emma Jane Avila Pohman (Green), Shelby Pikachu Billionaire (We the People) and John (Raghu) Giuffre (Nonpartisan).


For the 2nd District Congressional race, U.S. Congresswoman Jill Tokuda, a Democrat, will be seeking a second term. “As a mom, I want nothing more than for my two boys to see a future for themselves in Hawai‘i, with good jobs and a home where they can raise families,” Tokuda asserts. “This is personal to me and comes with a sense of urgency as our next generation has become one of Hawaiʻi’s greatest exports. There is so much to do, to take care of our people and communities, and I humbly ask for your support.”

Republican Steve Bond says “Hawai‘i Born, I have been living in Kula Maui, at my great grandfather’s old farmhouse for ten years. I lived and worked in Manila from 1997-2000. With all the problems facing Maui we need to elect a U.S. Congressman from Maui, I pray you ask your family and friends throughout the entire state of Hawai‘i to visit and”


Aaron Toman of the Libertarian party declares: “I have always lived by the words, ‘If I’m not willing to stand for my rights, do I deserve those rights in the first place?’ I couldn’t sit back through another election cycle; if I wanted to see change, I had to create the change myself! I’m here to prove that a better Hawai‘i will arise when we Limit The Power of our Elected Government!”

Nonpartisan Randall Kelly Meyer is also in the race.

With only four of the twenty races unopposed, there is still a need to vote in the Primary and General elections. As noted, the Primary Election will determine one race in the Democratic primary, and in two races, which Democrat will proceed to the general election. Two councilmembers will need to beat back challenges in both the primary and general elections to retain their seats. While five Councilmembers will skip the primary election, they will face opposition in the general election.

Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

All candidates were requested to submit an explanation in three sentences or less why they were seeking election/re-election to the office they filed for and to provide a photo.

Assistant Editor Alfredo G. Evangelista majored in Political Science at the University of Southern California. After law school, he volunteered for several political campaigns: U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Governor, Lt. Governor, State Senate, State House, and Mayor. His first political campaign experience was in elementary school.
Retired State Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran contributed to this story. He practices law in Wailuku and has no options for legislators in this election because he votes in Kahului.