Endorsements are a tricky thing. Essentially, they boil down to someone telling you how to vote, which would seem to undermine your right to make up your own mind. But that’s not our goal.
These endorsements serve two purposes: to let you know where we, as one of Maui’s few media outlets, stand; and to provide undecided voters with a little guidance. Obviously we bring our own slant. That’s something we’ve never been afraid to admit. However, we’ve also given every candidate a chance, sending out questionnaires, conducting interviews, researching records and paying close attention to the various debates and forums. We believe everyone who runs for public office deserves to be heard, regardless of stature, financing or experience. At the same time, we see the necessity, as the campaign wears on, to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
In the end—whether you agree with all, some or none of our picks—we sincerely hope you’ll vote in the September 18 primary.
NOTE: In the federal and state races, which are partisan, we’ve endorsed one candidate from each party. In the county races, which are non-partisan, we’ve endorsed two candidates, as that’s the number that will move on to the general election. Of course, you can only pick one, so we’ve tried to make our reasons for supporting each candidate—and our reservations—clear. In cases where there was no candidate we could even partially support, we’ve withheld our endorsement.
U.S. Senator – Democrat
Disillusionment with our federal leadership has reached critical mass. Though at times over-simplified or misguided, we understand and sympathize with the call for radical, systemic change. Yet it can’t simply be about “out with the old”; the “new” that comes in has to represent at least the hope of something better. And, though he embodies Washington’s old guard, Senator Dan Inouye remains the best choice in a strange, occasionally comical field of challengers who range from the well-intentioned but underqualified to the downright crazy. As a decorated war hero, chair of the Appropriations Committee and the longest-serving member of the Senate, we hope Inouye will use his position to fight the influence peddling, corruption and partisan gridlock that have poisoned national politics.
MauiTime endorses Dan Inouye
MauiTime withholds its endorsement in the Republican primary
Governor – Democrat
The barbs traded between old rivals Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann have made headlines, at times obscuring the issues. In the end, both men are career politicians and carry the baggage that label entails. Yet while Abercrombie has stayed mostly on-message, focusing primarily on food and energy security and education reform, Hannemann—who once upon a time branded Abercrombie a pot-smoking hippie—has strayed frequently into the divisive politics of race, culture and character assassination, revealing himself to be a candidate who cares more about winning elections than addressing Hawaii’s needs. We don’t agree with every decision Abercrombie made as a member of Congress, but we admire his lifetime of service, respect his ideology and believe in his ability to govern.
MauiTime endorses Neil Abercrombie
Governor – Republican
We’ve made no secret of our distaste for Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona; we don’t like his policies, his publicly declared religious leanings or his connection to the failures of the Lingle Administration. So while we’re also not sold on his sole Republican opponent, John Carroll, we’re prepared to support him in the primary in an “anybody-but-Duke” spirit and to applaud Carroll for taking on the all-but-coronated frontrunner.
MauiTime endorses John Carroll
Lt. Governor – Democrat
More than any other race, this one is filled with qualified, intriguing candidates. Six of the seven contenders have served in the state legislature, and of those six, three appeal to us. A former teacher and school administrator, Lyla Berg brings a solid education background, while Gary Hooser is noted for his environmental record. We think either would make a fine Lieutenant Governor and strongly considered both. In the end, however, we settled on Brian Schatz. Like his opponents, Schatz has legislative experience; he’s also served as state Democratic Party Chair, spearheaded Obama’s 2008 Hawaii campaign and has worked in the nonprofit sector. At the same time, he’s less than 40 years old. We admire both his experience and youthful exuberance and feel he’d be a nice complement to an elder statesmen like Abercrombie.
MauiTime endorses Brian Schatz
MauiTime withholds its endorsement in the Republican primary
State House District 8 – Democrat
In 2008, here’s what we wrote about this race: “Representative Joe Souki notably came down on the wrong side of the Superferry mess. He also gets most of his campaign cash from business entities and PACs outside his district. Tasha Kama, a community activist and pastor of the Christian Ministry Church with deep roots in the community, looks like an excellent alternative.” Souki won that election, but two years later nothing has changed. He’s still emblematic of the legislature’s good old boys club, still taking money from Oahu and Mainland interests and still raising serious questions about his loyalty. This time, three candidates have stepped up to challenge Souki, including teacher Justin Hughey and insurance agent Thomas Cerizo, but we still like Kama.
MauiTime endorses Tasha Kama
State House District 10 – Republican
While incumbent Angus McKelvey runs unopposed for the Democratic nomination, two Republicans are vying to challenge him: Ramon Madden and Chayne Marten. Madden got the nomination last year and lost to McKelvey; Marten ran unsuccessfully for the West Maui Council seat. While we disagree with Madden on many issues—he’s aligned himself with the Maui Tea Party and, after the civil union veto, wrote that HB444 “doesn’t add civil rights, it takes them away”—we believe Madden’s interest in the issues and commitment to West Maui are genuine and that he’d serve his constituents passionately and wholeheartedly.
MauiTime endorses Ramon Madden
State House District 11 – Democrat
At the end of his first term in 2008, we chastised incumbent Joe Bertram for his missteps, including publicly defending the controversial Wailea 670 development, but backed him in the hope that he’d do better with a little seasoning. With another term under his belt, Bertram remains confounding, exercising questionable judgment in a number of cases yet also coming down on the right side of important issues like civil unions and Hawaii’s voter-approved but oft-ignored medical marijuana law. We’re not convinced Bertram will ever stop making head-scratching blunders, and we considered his opponents, Netra Halperin (who tried for the Kahului Council seat in 2008) and Johanna Amorin. However, reservations aside, we still admire Joe for his willingness to take a stand. Enough, at least, to give him another shot.
MauiTime endorses Joe Bertram
County Council – South Maui
We like incumbent Wayne Nishiki for his consistent, independent, sometimes combative voice and his willingness to ask tough questions. At the same time, we have serious reservations about the $100,000 loan he accepted from developer Everett Dowling (Nishiki says he’s finally started to pay it off, though a Board of Ethics disclosure reveals he still owes somewhere between $55,000 and $99,000). Meanwhile, Nishiki’s opponent, Don Couch, has said the right things regarding sustainability and smart growth and is clearly dedicated to public service, but his campaign spending reports reveal he’s accepted contributions from developers, including $1,000 from Wailea 670 rep and current Land Use Commissioner Charlie Jencks. Retired plumbing contractor Norman Vares is also running for this seat, though he often gets lost in the heated debate between Couch and Nishiki. It’s a debate we’d like to see continue into the general election.
MauiTime endorses Wayne Nishiki and Don Couch
County Council – West Maui
With popular incumbent Jo Anne Johnson stepping aside due to term limits, a wide field of candidates is jostling to fill the void. For us, two stand out. Elle Cochran has founded and worked with a variety of local nonprofits, and established herself as a strong, rising environmental advocate. She doesn’t have much government experience, but we believe she has the potential to grow into the office—much the way Johnson did. Another interesting, if more enigmatic, candidate is Ke‘eaumoku Kapu. Kapu has served on a number of Native Hawaiian boards and commissions and has the potential to give the Native Hawaiian community a voice on the Council, perhaps helping unite and codify a vital but often fragmented segment of Maui Nui. That’s a lot to ask of one candidate, and we’re not certain Kapu’s up to the task—but we’re intrigued by the possibilities.
MauiTime endorses Elle Cochran and Ke‘eaumoku Kapu
County Council – Upcountry
For us, the race to replace termed-out Mike Molina boils down to youth and experience. Youth in the form of Kai Nishiki, who ran her first campaign against Molina in 2008, and experience in the form of Mike White, who served five years in the state House and has spent the rest of his lengthy career in the visitor industry. We believe Nishiki, like Cochran, has the fire and intelligence to develop into a fine Councilmember. We also like White for his business acumen and his dedication to cultural preservation. A general election race between these two should engender constructive debate—and a good outcome for Upcountry Maui.
MauiTime endorses Kai Nishiki and Mike White
That we believe Mayor Charmaine Tavares has been bad for Maui County is well known. The national and global conditions that created this economic tempest may have been out of her hands but, like a captain sailing a ship through a storm, we think her policies and governing style have left Maui worse off than it could have been under different leadership. The 10 candidates running against her represent an interesting cross-section, and we like several of them. We admire the experience of former Planning Director Chris Hart and we’re tempted by Randy Piltz, who has a long resume and respect from many corners of the community but has never held elected office. Even candidates with whom we disagree, like Maui Tea Party founder Marc Hodges, have shaped the race in thought-provoking ways. This wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end we settled on two candidates: Councilmember Sol Kaho‘ohalahala and former Mayor Alan Arakawa. We support them for different reasons. Kaho‘ohalahala has a statesman-like demeanor and extensive experience in state and county government, and also preaches the most clear and consistent pro-sustainability message. We believe he’d fight for important issues like food and energy independence, and help take Maui in a new direction. Arakawa, on the other hand, represents a link to the recent past; some might say this is no time to go backwards, and we considered that. But, though he made a few notable mistakes in office, we feel Arakawa—with his firm grasp of the issues and administrative, detail-oriented approach—deserved a second term in 2006. We also hope that after four years on the sidelines, he’s had time to regroup, strategize and adapt.
MauiTime endorses Sol Kaho‘ohalahala and Alan Arakawa
For info about where, when and how to vote, visit hawaii.gov/elections or call 453-VOTE