2012 MauiTime Hawaii Primary Election Candidate Endorsements

When you don’t vote, you have no voice.

There’s no truer statement in a democracy. Sure, we can bitch and moan about the influence of money in political elections, or the stranglehold “special interests” have over our legislatures or even the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of most candidates, but when it comes down to it, unless we actually punch holes in a ballot, we’re just kidding ourselves. Voting requires work, effort and, above all, coherent thought.

It also requires good candidates, and like most years, we’re not looking at a bumper crop. Unless you’re happy just voting along with some slate mailer, finding good candidates is never easy.

There are candidates below who clearly look at the state of affairs on Maui at the moment–the drive to build massive residential developments without clear water sources or commercial projects without regard to traffic impacts, the virtually unchecked power of the Maui Police and Liquor Control Departments, the poor performance of students in our state’s public schools, etc.–and promise nothing that will change any of it. There are others deeply troubled by this problems, and sincerely wish to help. And there are still other candidates whose mere presence in the election is pretty insulting.

So here’s our take on them (as well as a brief rundown on races that aren’t actually races). And if we happen to seem a bit mean at times, then good. The last people we should baby are those who want power. If you need any additional information on the election or where you actually vote, go to Hawaii.gov/elections.

*****

U.S. Senate, Democrat

Mazie Hirono

This one’s pretty clear-cut. Mazie Hirono has been in office since 2006, and seems to be doing a fine job. She’s very liberal, yes, but it’s clear her ideology is something she actually believes, rather than just a coat she puts on to appease the voters. While we like Ed Case–his sponsoring a bill while still a state House member back in 1995 to stop the Hawaii Supreme Court from nominating Bishop Estate trustees was an act of political bravery seldom seen anywhere–he’s simply too conservative. It’s just too hard to forgive the guy for supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while he sat in Congress from 2003 to 2006. The other candidates (Michael D. Gillespie, Antonio Gimbernat, Arturo Pacheco (Art) Reyes) are non-entities.

*****

U.S. Senate, Republican

John P. Roco

Man, this one was tough. Let’s start with John Carroll, a hard right-winger who’s been endorsed by the notorious historical revisionist Ken Conklin. Next! Then there’s Charles Augustine Collins, about whom we could discover next to nothing. Next! Oh wait, former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is also running–in fact, she’s heavily favored to win the nomination. Next! Then there’s business guy Eddie Pirkowski who told Honolulu Civil Beat that if elected he’ll push for a flat tax, more drone strikes, and is just itching to gut the Affordable Care Act. Next! That leaves John P. Roco, a psychological counselor on Oahu. His campaign website (johnroco.com) doesn’t have much in the way of political issues per se, but it does have pictures of two very cute little birds called Pickles and Twinkie. “Summer 2011 we rescued two baby birds, later letting Pickles free, and Twinkie join his parents in tree,” Roco wrote next to the photos. OK, who’s going to vote against the man who rescued Pickles and Twinkie? Anyone heartless enough to say no to the guy gave those two little birdies a second chance? We didn’t think so.

*****

U.S. House of Representatives, Second District, Democrat

Tulsi Gabbard

Here’s another tough race. Given the massive name recognition enjoyed by former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, you’d think he’d have this race locked up. But he doesn’t. Which is good, because Hannemann’s too pro-tourism industry and anti-same-sex marriage for our tastes, and he still comes off way too thug-like in debates. Trial lawyer Rafael Del Castillo is pushing for more health care reform but he lacks political experience. Esther Kia‘aina is a solid liberal with too much political experience: notably, her current and former, respectively, roles as Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chief Advocate and Kamehameha Schools land manager. Miles Shiratori’s 2010 website touting his gubernatorial run is sadly easier to find than his current website. And Bob Marx is a Hawaii Island environmental attorney who shares Kia‘aina’s progressive ideology. Marx and Kia’aina are great candidates, but we’re going with Honolulu Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard.* Supported by EMILY’s List (which backs pro-choice women) and the Sierra Club, she also stepped out of dad state Senator Mike Gabbard’s gay-baiting shadow by unequivocally telling us (via Twitter!) that she personally supports same-sex marriage, which we view as a human right.

*****

U.S. House of Representatives, Second District, Republican

Kawika Crowley

Kawika Crowley is without a doubt the most interesting and dynamic candidate running for any office in the state of Hawaii. Seriously. His resume is a mile long. He’s an advertising consultant, Tea Party member, stand-up comedian, radio DJ, co-author of the classic song “Hawaii 78,” record label-owner, author, TV host, single parent and Hilo resident. Oh, and on his campaign website (kawika4congress.com), under the list labeled “Interests & Hobbies,” he included “sensitive ladies.” That alone should catapult this guy into office. Keep in mind though that Crowley is very conservative, though he does believe women who are raped should have access to abortions. It definitely helps Crowley’s case that his opponent, Matthew DeGeronimo, is a boring mergers and acquisitions guy who lives in Hawaii Kai and was recently named one of Hawaii Business Mag’s “20 For The Next 20.”

*****

State Senate, District 7, Democrat

J. Kalani English

J. Kalani English has held this office since 2000, but we don’t think you should hold that against him. The Hana resident is a principled liberal, capable and by all accounts very popular in his district, which is difficult to represent given that it includes East Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kaho‘olawe. It helps him that his opponent, Barbara J. Haliniak, is a Molokai business woman who put out ambiguous and dull campaign materials.

******

State House, District 9, Democrat

Gil Keith-Agaran

Wow, we really seem to like incumbents this year. Gil Keith-Agaran is as establishment as they come, having in the past run the Maui County Public Works Department, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and chaired the Board of Land & Natural Resources, but he still seems outside the system. He’s well-read, thoughtful, nearly always on Twitter (and not just to share how he just voted on this or that, but to offer his actual takes on books, Giants games, etc.) and votes his conscience. Even though he’s the incumbent, he feels like the outsider against termed-out Maui County Councilman Joe Pontanilla, who has a made a very successful career out of doing exactly what the big land developers want him to do.

*****

State House, District 10, Democrat

Angus McKelvey

Yes, we’re endorsing a guy who has a Sugar Cane Train locomotive named after him. Angus McKelvey has been in office since 2006, and he’s really grown into an effective legislator who genuinely wants to do well for his district by bringing more clean energy and high-tech industries to Maui and Hawaii. As for his opponent, Edward H. Kaahui, he wants to fix the road to Lahaina so we can have more development at Kaanapali, Pulelehua, etc. We need better roads in and out of the Westside, sure, but to serve the current population.

*****

State House, District 11, Democrat

Colin E. Hanlon

First, the people we’re not endorsing. Joseph Bertram III held his job from 2006 to 2010. He was a nice guy, but not particularly effective and should just stay retired. He means well, but (at least in his emails to MauiTime) he seemed to have trouble writing declarative sentences. While Netra Halperin, a social worker, actually wrote a cover story for MauiTime last year on homelessness on Maui, she couldn’t articulate why she was running for office, either on the recent Akaku televised candidate forum or in a one-on-one interview with MauiTime. Kaniela Ing is a good kid who’s popular with the crowd outraged over the upcoming Kihei Mega Malls, but he’s still too new to the game. Colin E. Hanlon, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Maui, is different from the rest. He has both solid administrative experience and good community credentials. We only wish there were Hanlons in a few more races this season…

*****

Maui County Council: Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu

No Endorsement

Mike Victorino is still the incumbent, and still (Dodger!) Shane Victorino’s dad, and for a lot of people on Maui, that’s enough. Victorino always struck as someone who ran for office because of what he could be, rather than what he could do. The problem here is that his opponents are even worse. Joseph G. Blackburn III is a former firefighter and police officer who seems sincere, but has made campaign statements that make us question his priorities. Like this one, from his website (blackburn4council.com): “Stream water use for agricultural and the accompanying ditch system needs to be supported. We must support [Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar] HC&S. in their bid for survival if we are to realize our dream of electrical self-sufficiency.” As for right-wing ideologue Lisa R. Gapero (married to LC Investigator Pedro Gapero), we’re just going to say no and move on.

*****

Maui County Council: Kahului

No Endorsement

Sigh. Alan (Al) Fukuyama is a small businessman who failed to win County Council seat representing Lahaina in 2008 and 2010, and is now trying his luck at this open seat. We think he should try something else entirely. Don S. Guzman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has lined up backing from the island’s political powerhouses. In fact, Mayor Alan Arakawa, planner Chris Hart, planning firm Frampton & Ward, former Prosecuting Attorney Ben Acob, current county Finance Director Danny Agsalog, consultant firm Araki-Regan & Associates, developer Stanford Carr and builder Chad Goodfellow have all donated money to his campaign. Guzman’s your guy if you you like the way Maui is developing. We don’t, so he’s not. As for Erin R. McLaughlin, he taught special education at Baldwin for 11 years, worked for the TSA and then tried to open a jet ski rental business in Makena but was apparently blocked by the permitting process. We’ll just pass on the whole lot.

*****

OHA Trustee (at large)

Walter Ritte

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is one of those background institutions that most people have heard of but few can explain. OHA administers community grants and low interest loans to Kanaka Maoli seeking a better life. The office also lobbies the legislature. There are a variety of candidates running for the at large seat, but only one clear choice. Haunani Apoliona is the incumbent trustee. Keli‘i Akina is a minister. Cal Lee is a former assistant coach at the University of Hawaii. Lancelot Haili Lincoln is a bit of a mystery–even the League of Women Voters didn’t have any information on him in their exhaustive candidate run-down, though they did have a picture of him wearing a jaunty hat. Keali‘i J. Makekau is a condo site manager in Honolulu. Then there’s Walter Ritte. He helped found OHA back in the 1970s, and served on its first board of trustees. But these days he’s a wild card (and he has the criminal convictions to prove it). He’ll bring life to the OHA board in ways no one can really predict.

* This story initially reported incorrectly that Gabbard’s last name was still Tamayo (her married name).

*****

CANDIDATES TO IGNORE

A large number of races this primary election are uncontested–just one member of a party decided to run for a given nomination, not enough people stepped up to run in a council district or simply no one bothered to challenge an incumbent. That happened a lot this year. Seriously: no one wanted to take on Councilman Mike White? Or State Representative Joe Souki? Are they that powerful and/or beloved?

But we digress. Here are all the candidates automatically headed to the November general election (those in ALL CAPS are running unopposed, and are basically already reelected):

• Shan Tsutsui (State Senate District 5 Democrat)
• Roz Baker (State Senate District 6 Democrat)
• Bart Mulvihill (State Senate District 6 Republican)
• JOE SOUKI (State House District 8)
• Chayne M. Marten (State House District 10 Republican)
• George R. Fontaine (State House District 11 Republican)
• Kyle T. Yamashita (State House District 12 Democrat)
• Ekolu Kalama (State House District 12 Republican)
• Mele Carroll (State House District 13 Democrat)
• Simon S. Russell (State House District 13 Republican)
• BOB CARROLL (Maui County Council, East Maui)
• ELLE COCHRAN (Maui County Council, West Maui)
• MIKE WHITE (Maui County Council, Makawao-Haiku-Paia)
• RIKI HOKAMA (Maui County Council, Lanai)
• Gladys Baisa (Maui County Council, Upcountry)
• Richard Pohle (Maui County Council, Upcountry)
• Don Couch (Maui County Council, South Maui)
• Alana Kay (Maui County Council, South Maui)
• Wilson Manuwai Peters (Maui County Council, Molokai)
• Stacy Helm Crivello (Maui County Council, Molokai)

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