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Many Anti-GMO Candidates Defeated in the Primary

August 19, 2014
Maui Weekly Staff , Maui Weekly

Despite the attention and controversy generated by anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) activists in the months leading up to the August primary, their candidates gained little traction in the recent primary election.

Both locally and statewide, most who opposed GMOs went down to defeat in partisan races or trailed by a wide margin in non-partisan races.

In Maui County's nonpartisan races, pro-GMO Mayor Alan Arakawa had an easy victory with 63.8 percent of the vote. Tamara Paltin, whose platform included several anti-GMO positions, trailed behind with 11.9 percent. The two will face each other in the general election.

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Mayor Alan Arakawa and Tamara Paltin will face each other in the 2014 General Election.

In the Maui County Council races, East Maui incumbent Bob Carroll, who missed several months of work recovering from surgery, easily defeated anti-GMO activist and Hawai'i Green Party Co-Chair Nick Nikhilananda. Carroll got 60 percent of the votes and 14 percent went to Nikhilananda. The two will face each other in November.

South Maui incumbent Don Couch got 55.6 percent of the vote; his anti-GMO challenger, John Fitzpatrick, got 13.9 percent. Both men will be on the ballot again in the general election.

Bucking the trend, Maui's only two elected officials with anti-GMO positions moved forward.

Fact Box

For a complete list of the final primary results by state, by county and by precinct, see the Hawai'i State Office of Elections at

Incumbent West Maui Councilmember Elle Cochran received 40 percent of the vote. Challengers Ka'ala Buenconsejo got 27.8 percent and Rick Nava got 17.4 percent. The top two vote-getters-- Cochran and Buenconsejo--will face each other in November in the nonpartisan race. All Maui voters are eligible to vote in this race and all other County Council contests.

Rep. Kaniela Ing (D), State House District 10 (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) who favors the labeling of GMO foods, easily defeated his opponent Marie Minichino with 82.1 percent for Ing versus 12.1 percent for Minichino. Ing has no Republican opponent in the general election but will face Libertarian candidate Pat Brock, who received 100 percent of his party's vote in the primary (in all, 21 votes for Brock).

State Sen. Roz Baker (D), State Senate District 6 (South and West Maui), held onto her spot on the Democratic ticket in November--but just barely. Her opponent, first-time candidate Terez Amato, gave incumbent Baker a stiff challenge. Amato favors the labeling of GMO foods. She was also critical of Baker for her big money contributors, including Monsanto. In the final printout, Baker won by a scant 451 votes (2,673 for Baker and 2,172 votes for Amato).

Baker still faces a November challenge from Republican Jared Dubois and Libertarian Bronson Ka'ahui, who are likely to focus on many of the same issues raised by Amato.

Of these, the unwillingness of Baker (and other incumbents) to listen to a wider range of ideas seems to resonate most with voters. On his Facebook page, Dubois pointed out that though Baker may have won the Democratic primary, in his opinion, "she is still vulnerable" [in the general election]. Since the overwhelming majority of voters selected a Democrat primary ballot, it's difficult to estimate the strength of the other candidates based on August's results.

But perhaps the biggest unknown in the upcoming 2014 General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 4, is the impact of Maui's proposed GMO moratorium, which received enough signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot. In all, more than 9,000 qualified signatures were collected. Should those who favor a GMO moratorium turn out in large numbers and vote as a block the November, results on Maui could be very different than they looked in the primary.

In the primary, Maui County had the lowest voter turnout in the state with only 27,537 voters casting ballots out of a total county-wide registration of 85,581 (32.2 percent).

Statewide Primary Results in Races with Pro- & Anti-GMO Candidates


On Kaua'i, pro-GMO mayor Bernard Carvalho defeated anti-GMO candidate Dustin Barca, leader of the "Kaua'i Rising" protests. The results are 57 percent for Carvalho and 30 percent for Barca. The two will face off again in the General.

In Kaua'i's House District 15, Democratic incumbent Rep Jimmy Tokioka beat anti-GMO candidate Dylan Hooser by a wide margin

Kaua'i council results were mixed. In this election, the top 14 candidates move on to a runoff for seven seats in the general election.

In the primary, pro-GMO challengers Arryl Kaneshiro and Kipu Kai Kuali'i finished third and eighth, respectively. Incumbent anti-GMO leader Gary Hooser is sixth, his colleague, Tim Bynum finished seventh, and anti-GMO appointee Mason Chock came in 10th, right ahead of 11th place pro-GMO newcomer Arthur Brun.


On O'ahu, anti-GMO House District 48 candidate Robert Harris, an attorney for EarthJustice, lost to Jarrett Keohokalole. Harris got 41 percent of the votes, while Keohokalole got 50 percent. This is an open seat vacated by anti-GMO former-Rep Jessica Wooley.

Hawai'i Island

On Hawai'i Island, pro-GMO Puna District 4 Councilman Gregor Ilagan received 37.9 percent of the vote, compared to nearest challenger Roy Lozano with 27 percent. Since two of the Puna District polling places were closed due to the storm, the final outcome will not be certain until after the special election scheduled for Friday, Aug. 15. Ilagan was the focus of a long New York Times article that described how he made his decision to vote against anti-GMO ordinances considered by the Hawai'i County Council.

In Puna Council District 5, Daniel Paleka was ahead of anti-GMO candidate Tiffany Edwards Hunt 33.7 percent to 30.3 percent in a split field running for an open seat.

In Council District 6, Kau, candidate Richard Abbett supported by "Babes Against Biotech" received only 16.6 percent of the vote. Maile David-Medeiros was the top vote getter with 59.6 percent. She will replace anti-GMO Councilmember Brenda Ford, who termed out. Ford endorsed loser Abbett.

Hawai'i County Council District 9 was a victory for anti-GMO forces. Incumbent Margaret Willie took 46 percent of the vote against pro-GMO challengers Ronald Gonzales and Sonny Shimaoka. The two men received 26 percent and 22 percent respectively.

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For a complete list of the final primary results by state, by county and by precinct, see the Hawai'i State Office of Elections at



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