Time to Concentrate on US Elections
Maui Mayor, Governor head list of Hot Races; Keith-Agaran and Hashimoto unopposed
Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor
Now that the Philippine elections are over and Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos, Jr. will be inaugurated as Philippines President on June 30, Maui can now concentrate on the American State, County and federal elections. Remember, while Primary Election Day is on Saturday, August 13 (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), Hawai‘i elections are conducted largely by mail-in ballots–just like for Hawai‘i residents with dual citizenship who participated in the Philippine elections.
Due to reapportionment, all State and County offices are up for election (and note, boundaries were redrawn so a different person may now be representing you at the County, State and/or federal levels).
Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. If you live in Senate District 5 (Central Maui comprising Kahului, Pu‘unēnē, Waihe‘e, Wailuku and old Waikapū), Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran (provided he receives at least one vote) will continue to be your state Senator because he is unopposed. If you live in re-numbered House District 10 (Wailuku, Waikapū and portions of Waiehu), your State Representative will be Troy Hashimoto because he is unopposed (again assuming he receives at least one vote).
But the other races will be interesting … and as Editor Vince Bagoyo, Jr. writes in his Editorial, the Filipino vote could be/may be the difference.
For Maui County, the top post is the hottest contest. Incumbent Michael Victorino faces strong challenges from retired Judge Richard Bissen, long-time Councilmember Michael Molina, former Council Chair Kelly King, as well as Cullan Bell, Kim Brown, Alana Kay, and Jonah Lion.
Victorino served from 2006 through 2017 on the Council before being elected as Mayor in 2018, besting Don Guzman and Elle Cochran and four others in the primary. In the general, Victorino received 26,227 to Cochran’s 20,956 votes. Bissen, retired in December 2021 after sixteen years as a Judge, was Maui’s Prosecuting Attorney (1995–2003), Interim Director of the State Department of Public Safety and First Deputy Attorney General under Republican Governor Linda Lingle. Molina served on the County Council from 2001 until 2010, worked for Mayor Alan Arakawa (2011–2018), and then returned to the County Council in 2018. King was first elected to the Council in 2016 (defeating incumbent Don Couch). She served as Chair of the Council from January 2019 until she resigned as Chair in December 2019. She initially filed on May 25 to run for State House District 11 but withdrew her candidacy on June 6 and filed for Mayor on June 7th, the very last day to file nomination papers. Bell owns C Bell Construction Inc. and is a flag football coach; Brown owns Akamai Coffee Company; Kay ran for Mayor in 2014 and received 1,398 votes in the primary; and Lion is the founder of Djedi Academy.
Under Maui’s charter, the top two finishers in the primary (all County elections are conducted as non-partisan) advance to the November 8th General Election.
Every seat on the Council is being challenged—no one gets the free rides (cue Edgar Winter) given to Central Maui legislators Keith-Agaran and Hashimoto. County races with only two candidates proceed to the General Election ballot without a primary.
The Kahului seat has the most competition—seven. Incumbent Tasha Kama will face Cara Flores, Carol Lee Kamekona, Buddy Nobriga, Tina Pedro, Jason Schwartz, and Keoni Watanabe. Flores is a realtor and founder of HALE Hawai‘i; Kamekona ran two years ago and received 27,641 votes to Kama’s 30,029 votes; Nobriga is a scion of the Nobriga ranching and Coca-Cola bottler clan; Pedro describes herself as an independent consultant and educator and is a former member of the State Campaign Spending Commission and the Maui County Planning Commission; Schwartz previously ran in his old upcountry neighborhoods for various offices and is the host of the Maui Neutral Zone.
The Makawao-Ha‘iku-Pā‘ia seat (vacated by Molina) has four candidates: Aram Armstrong, Nara Boone, Dave Deleon, and Nohe U‘u-Hodgins. DeLeon is a former Maui News reporter who later served in the Lingle and Arakawa County administrations. U‘u-Hodgins works for local planning, consulting and development management firm F&W Land LLC. Armstrong is the founder of Generative Ventures Hawai‘i and a Designer and Technologist at Food Security Hawai‘i based in Ha‘ikū and Boone is an entertainer and a voice teacher.
The South Maui seat (vacated by King) has three candidates: Tom Cook, Robin Knox, and Dennis O’Shea. Local general contractor Cook ran in 2020 and received 25,506 votes to King’s 34,155 votes. Knox is the owner of Water Quality Consulting, Inc.
The Upcountry seat will pit incumbent Yuki Lei Sugimura against Renee Cruz and Jordan Hocker. Sugimura who was first elected in 2016, was unopposed in 2020, receiving 48,268 votes (23,361 were blank) but now faces Cruz, a Makawao realtor and Hocker, a student at University of Hawai‘i Maui College.
The following Council races go straight to November: East Maui Council seat (Claire Kamalu Carroll and incumbent Shane Sinenci) which will be the third battle between these two (in 2018, Sinenci received 23,654 votes to Carroll’s 19,467 while in 2020 Sinenci received 32,995 votes to Carroll’s 26,245 votes); West Maui Council seat (Justin Herrmann and incumbent Tamara Paltin) Paltin, first elected in 2018, bested Rick Nava (33,696 to 26,592 in 2020 and 28,376 to 14,581 in 2018); Nava, after pulling papers decided against running; Herrmann is a first-time candidate; Wailuku-Waihe‘e-Waikapū seat (Noelani Ahia and incumbent Alice Lee) Lee is the current Chair of the Council, replacing King who resigned in 2019; Lee formerly represented the Makawao seat and unsuccessfully ran for Mayor in 1998, losing to James “Kimo” Apana in the Democratic primary; Lee made a comeback in 2018 beating then incumbent Alika Atay, 23,703 to 21,322; Ahia, a founder of Mauna Medic Healers Hui, is a Hawaiian cultural activist; Lāna‘i seat (Riki Hokama and incumbent Gabe Johnson); Hokama who served as Lāna‘i’s councilmember since 1998 was term limited in 2020; Johnson previously ran against Hokama in 2018, losing 20,508 to 22,475 and 2016, losing 19,092 to 23,272; and Molokai seat (incumbent Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and John Pele); Rawlins-Fernandez beat incumbent Stacy Helm Crivello in 2018 and has held on to the seat since then; Pele is part-owner of Hiro’s Ohana Grill and a former member of the Molokai Planning Commission.
For the State races and federal races, candidates run under a party: Aloha ‘Āina, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Republican or as a Nonpartisan.
For Governor, seven Democrats vie to replace Governor David Ige: Duke Bourgoin, Vicky Cayetano, Josh Green, Kai Kahele, Richard Kim, Mac Lewman, and Van Tanabe. Cayetano is the former Chairperson of the Hawai‘i Chamber of Commerce; Green is the current Lt. Governor; and Kahele is the current Congressman from Congressional District 2. Bourgoin ran for Honolulu Mayor in 2020 and received 368 votes while Kim previously ran in 2018, garnering 1,576 votes in the primary; Tanabe also ran in 2018, garnering 775 votes in the primary. Lewman is an Oregon native and holds real estate licenses in Oregon and Hawai‘i.
The Republican candidates include Duke Aiona, Gary Cordery, George Hawat, Keline Kahau, Lynn Barry Mariano, Paul Morgan, Moses Paskowitz, BJ Penn, Heidi Tsuneyoshi, and Walter Woods. Aiona, who entered the race on the last day, is a retired Judge and served as Lt. Governor under Lingle. He lost in 2010 to Democrat Neil Abercrombie and in 2014 to Democrat David Ige. Mariano previously ran for State Senate #12 in 2018, garnering 3,999 votes to Sharon Moriwaki’s 9,507 votes. Penn is a first-time candidate but has a huge following as a mixed martial arts fighter. Tsuneyoshi is a current member of the Honolulu City Council, having been first elected in 2018.
Caleb Nazara and Keleionalani Taylor are running as non-partisans and will need to match the votes of the partisan nominee with the lowest total to qualify for the General Election.
For the Lt. Governor’s race, six Democrats want the “stay breathing” job: Keith Amemiya, Ikaika Anderson, Daniel Cunningham, Sylvia Luke, Sherry Menor-McNamara, and Sam Puletasi. Amemiya ran for Honolulu Mayor in 2020, placing second to Rick Blangiardi, receiving149,735 votes to Blangiardi’s 224,474. Anderson is a former Chair of the Honolulu City Council but resigned in September 2020; he was first elected in 2009. Luke is the current chair of the powerful House Finance Committee and has represented the Pauoa area since 1998. Menor-McNamara is on leave from the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i, where she is the President and Chief Executive Officer. Cunningham previously ran for Governor in 2010 under the Free Energy Party, which received 1,265 votes. In 2018, Puletasi ran for Congress District 1, garnering 519 votes in the race won by Ed Case.
The Republican candidates for LG include Rob Burns, Tae Kim, and Seaula Tupai, Jr. Burns is a businessman (started the company Local Motion); Kim is an attorney and in 2020 ran for Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney; at that time, the Star Bulletin identified his political party as Democrat. Tupai is currently the Senior Pastor at Overcoming Faith Center in Hilo.
Charles Keoho is the lone Nonpartisan candidate.
Maui has three State Senators. With Senator Roz Baker (West Maui-South Maui) retiring after three decades, five candidates want her seat: Democrats Shaina Forsyth, Tamara Goebbert and Angus McKelvey; Republicans Phillip Raya and Sheila Walker; and Green Party Melissah Shishido.
Incumbent Lynn DeCoite who was appointed by Ige to replace Senator Kalani English for Senate District 7 will face Leo Caires and Walter Ritte in the Democratic party primary. Waiting for the winner in the General Election will be Republican Tamara McKay. Both Caires and Ritte sought the Maui Democratic party’s nomination for the Senate seat but Ige selected DeCoite, who was representing House District 13 (Molokai, Lāna‘i, East Maui) at that time.
In the House, Maui has six State Representatives.
With State Representative McKelvey leaving his House seat (District 14-West Maui) to run for State Senate, four candidates seek to replace him: Democrats Elle Cochran and Kanamu Balinbin; Republican Kelly Armstrong and Aloha ‘Āina Leonard Nakoa. Cochran represented the West Maui Council seat since 2010 until she unsuccessfully ran for Mayor. Balinbin first ran in 2016 against Cochran; he ran again in 2018, and as a Republican in 2020. In 2020, Nakoa ran as a Democrat against McKelvey and received 1,157 votes in the primary.
With State Representative Tina Wildberger opting not to run for re-election (District 11-South Maui), there are four candidates running: Democrats Terez Amato and Randal Mahiai and Republicans Shekinah Cantere and Netra Halperin. Amato ran twice against Roz Baker for the Senate; in 2014 (losing by 486 votes in the Democratic primary) and in 2018 (losing by 106 votes in the Democratic primary). Halperin previously ran for State House (District 11) in 2012, losing to Kaniela Ing in the Democratic primary and also ran for the County Council (Kahului seat) in 2008, losing to Joe Pontanilla.
Three incumbent Representatives face challengers.
In House District 9 (Kahului), incumbent Justin Woodson will face off against fellow Democrat Sam Peralta. With no other candidates, the Primary will determine the winner. Woodson was first appointed in 2013, beat challenger James “Kimo” Apana in 2014; was unopposed in 2016; beat Kauanoe Batangan in 2018; and beat Kahala Jen Chrupalyk in 2020. Peralta, a first-time candidate, is a Pastor at New Hope Maui.
In House District 12, incumbent Kyle Yamashita, a Democrat, will face off against Republican Dan Johnson and Green Party Summer Starr. Although their names will appear in the Primary election, the ultimate winner will be decided in the General (assuming each receives at least one vote in their partisan primary). Yamashita, the current Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee, had several close contests: winning by 240 votes in the August 2018 primary against Tiare Lawrence and winning by 352 votes against Lawrence in the 2016 Democratic primary. Johnson works in construction and project management. Starr is the Maui representative for Pono Hawai‘i Initiative and previously ran as a Democrat against Yamashita in 2008, garnering 37.4 percent of the vote to Yamashita’s 58.9 percent.
In House District 13, incumbent Linda Clark (who was appointed by Ige to replace DeCoite) will face fellow Democrats Keali‘imalu Nomura and Mahina Poepoe in the Democratic Party primary. The winner will face Republican Scott Adam and Green Nick Nikhilananda in the General. This will be the first election for Clark, Nomura and Poepoe. Nikhilananda has run as a Green candidate in 2018 against then Representative Lynn DeCoite, garnering 2,298 votes to DeCoite’s 5,796; in 2016, he received 2,773 votes to DeCoite’s 5,824 votes; in 2014, he received 11,730 votes to Bob Carroll’s 27,071 in the general election race for Council (East Maui). Clark is president of the Kaupō Community Association; Nomura is the Executive Director of the Maui County Workforce Development Board; Poepoe describes herself as “an advocate for culture and environment” while Adam’s background includes “a full career as a professional snowboard coach.”
For the federal races, incumbent U.S. Senator Brian Schatz is being challenged by fellow Democrat Steve Tataii. The Republicans are fielding Steven Bond, Timothy Dalhouse, Asia Lavonne, and Bob McDermott while the Libertarian candidate is Feena Bonoan, the Green candidate is Emma Jane Pohlman and the Aloha ‘Āina candidate is Dan Decker.
For Congressional District 2, nine candidates hope to replace Kahele, who is running for Governor: Democrats Patrick Branco, Nicole Gi, Brendan Schultz, Jill Tokuda, Steven Sparks and Kyle Yoshida; Republicans Joe Akana and Joe Webster and Libertarian Michelle Tippens.
Will 2022 be a banner year for Filipino candidates?
For Governor, Republican Lynn Barry Mariano hopes to be the second Hawai‘i governor of Filipino ancestry, joining Benjamin Cayetano who was elected in 1994 and re-elected in 1998. Three other candidates claim close connections to the Filipino community: Vicky Cayetano, Governor Cayetano’s wife was born in Manila, Philippines; Congressman Kai Kahele’s wife Maria was born in Baguio, Philippines while Vivian Welsh Aiona’s (former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona’s wife) roots are from Cebu and Iloilo.
For Lt. Governor, Sherry Menor-McNamara, of the famous Menor clan (her uncle Benjamin Menor was Supreme Court Justice; her Dad Barney Menor was State Representative; her cousin Ron Menor was State Representative, State Senator and Honolulu Councilman; and her uncle Selberio Menor was the Administrator of Maui’s Department of Civil Defense) aims to be Hawai‘i’s second Lt. Governor of Filipino ancestry (Benjamin Cayetano was the first in 1986).
For Maui Mayor, no candidate appears to be of Filipino ancestry although Michael Molina is married to the former Cielo Batan.
In the County Council, Tina Pedro hopes to join incumbents Shane Sinenci and Keani Rawlins-Fernandez.
For the State legislature, other than Keith-Agaran in the State Senate (where there are currently five other State Senators of Filipino ancestry), Maui does not have any other Filipino state legislator. Kanamu Balinbin hopes to be the second.
At the federal level, Democrat Sergio Alcubilla and Republican Arturo Reyes hope to unseat incumbent Ed Case but Maui residents cannot vote in Congressional District 1. They can consider, however, Patrick Branco in Congressional District 2.
So there you have it—your choices for the Primary Election on August 13. But to vote, you must be registered to vote. And the regular paper registration deadline is just weeks away (August 3). But it’s easier now; you can walk-in and register and vote on the same day during the walk-in period or on Election Day at the designated voter center.
No excuses. Vote!
Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School (1976), the University of Southern California (B.A. Political Science 1980), and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (1983). He is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business start-up and consultation, nonprofit corporations, and litigation. He has been practicing law for 38 years (since 1983) and returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Tumacder Idica.
Evangelista’s Dad was a supporter of Richard Caldito and Ben Cayetano. Evangelista recalls Joseph Bulgo campaigning in Paukūkalo with a loud megaphone on a truck, tossing candy to the neighborhood kids. Evangelista has been involved in the political campaigns of Earl Anzai, Benjamin Cayetano, Nestor Garcia, Mufi Hannemann, Mazie Hirono, Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Matt Matsunaga and Ron Menor and has sign waved for other campaigns.