With the Aug. 11 primary election just around the corner and the Nov. 6 general election looming on the horizon, candidates hoping to claim--and in some cases, reclaim--seats in the Hawai'i State Senate, House of Representatives and Maui County Council are stepping up efforts to win over their constituents. While much attention has been focused on the presidential and congressional races this election cycle, the upcoming county and state elections are just as significant to Maui County voters.
After a recent district shuffle, all 51 seats in the state House of Representatives will soon be up for grabs. In addition, there will be 25 contested seats in the Hawai'i State Senate, as the state mandates that all senators must run for reelection after redistricting. While many of the names and faces may be familiar to Maui County voters, it is important to note that several incumbent candidates will be running for seats in newly reapportioned state legislative districts.
In order to keep our readers informed and engaged in the political process, the Maui Weekly has compiled a series of political snapshots of candidates vying for seats on the Maui County Council, Hawai'i State Senate and House of Representatives. This week, we will cover a few of the key races for State House and Senate seats:
While much attention has been focused on Capitol Hill this election cycle, the upcoming state and county elections will hit closer to home--and have just as much impact--for Maui County residents.
State House, District 9 (Central Maui and North Shore)
Both candidates in the race for the District 9 seat are high-profile figures in Maui County. Incumbent state Rep. Keith-Agaran will compete for the House seat against Maui County Council Vice Chairman Joe Pontanilla.
Rep. Keith-Agaran was appointed to the District 9 seat in 2010, following the death of his predecessor, Rep. Bob Nakasone. Councilmember Pontanilla has represented Kahului for 10 years and has reached the term limit for his seat on the Maui County Council.
There is no Republican challenger in this race. Rep. Keith-Agaran and Councilmember Pontanilla are both Democrat candidates, so the primary election next month will determine the outcome.
State House, District 11 (South Maui)
The race for the District 11 seat in the state House of Representatives is shaping up to be one of the most crowded contests, as it has attracted multiple candidates--on the Democratic ticket.
Of the four Democratic contenders, Joe Bertram III is perhaps the best known. The Kihei native was elected in 2006 to represent the 11th District for two terms, but lost his seat by a narrow margin in the 2010 general election to Republican George Fontaine. Bertram hopes to win the primary election and get the chance to once again face Fontaine in the General Election in November. However, three other Democratic candidates also have the same goal in mind."
Another familiar face in South Maui belongs to non-incumbent District 11 contender Netra Halperin, the executive producer of "Netra's News TV." After an unsuccessful campaign in 2010, Halperin is determined to capture the House seat this go-round. "I feel that a wise lawmaker knows when to fight for the community and when to assist and work with others," she stated on her Website. "This is my intention as I serve South Maui's people."
Colin Hanlon may be a relatively new face in the local political arena, but he's quickly becoming a household name. A South Maui resident for 20 years, Hanlon is the chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui, a position that he describes as "one of the most rewarding jobs on Maui." Hanlon has firsthand experience with federal, state and county policies, and his platform is focused on improving education across the Valley Isle.
The fourth contender for the District 11 seat may be young but certainly does not lack experience. Among other things, Kaniela Ing has served with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a Native Hawaiian advocate in Washington, D.C., and was nationally selected as a "New Leader" for the Center for Progressive Leadership. "I have been blessed with the knowledge of the inner workings of all three major levels of government: county, state and federal," he said. "I will utilize this insight to think globally, while still acting locally, for what I truly believe is right for our community."
As the incumbent in the race for the District 11 seat, Rep. George Fontaine will run unopposed in next month's primary, but will face off with the Democratic nominee on Super Tuesday. The former police captain first assumed office in 2011, and has since been an ardent supporter of legislative measures relating to public safety and education. He hopes to continue to serve South Maui for a second term.
State Senate, District 6 (West and South Maui)
Once the representative for District 5, incumbent Democrat Sen. Roz Baker is now running for reelection in District 6 due to recent redistricting. Sen. Baker currently serves as the Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee chair and has represented South and West Maui for nearly a decade. She runs unopposed in the Democratic primary election, just like her opponent, GOP candidate Bart Mulvihill, who is also running unopposed in the Republican primary.
Mulvihill, a Lahaina resident, ran against Sen. Baker in 2008 as a Democrat, but lost in the primary election. Now a Republican hopeful, Mulvihill has adopted the campaign motto: "A little less conversation, a lot more action."
More About the Elections
In the next issue of the Maui Weekly, we will profile the slate of candidates running for seats on the Maui County Council. The general election may be a few months away, but it is never too soon to become involved in the political process, and if you haven't done so already-- register to vote. In November, the State of Hawai'i will elect its newest junior U.S. senator, as well as two U.S. House representatives from each of the state's congressional districts--and the president of the United States.
Want to learn more about the candidates? Pick up next week's Maui Weekly, tune in to Akaku: Maui Community Television for pre-primary debates and candidate forums throughout July, and visit the State of Hawai'i Office of Elections Website at www.hawaii.gov/elections for more information about the candidates and election procedures.
The deadline to register for the primary election is Thursday, July 12, and voting booths will be open on Saturday, Aug. 11. The deadline to register for the 2012 General Election is Monday, Oct. 8, and you can cast your ballots on "Super Tuesday," Nov. 6.
To register to vote, visit hawaii.gov/elections/voters/registration.htm to download the WikiWiki Voter Registration (Hawai'i's registration-by-mail procedure), contact the County of Maui Office of Elections at (808) 270-7749 or visit the State of Hawai'i Office of Elections Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/elections808.