Candidates for the State Senate from Kona gave their views on a variety of subjects at Tuesday night’s League of Women Voters forum at Hualalai Academy.
Running to retain his seat for District 3 (Ka’u into North Kona), Democrat incumbent Senator Josh Green focused on his work in the last eight years, including focusing on health care by helping establish local community boards for Kona Community Hospital and Hilo Medical Center. Green is a physician who works part-time at Kohala Hospital’s emergency room.
There are two Republicans running in the August 11 Primary, one of whom will go on to challenge Senator Green in the General November 6 General Election. Jeff LaFrance said his experience growing wine grapes in California would serve him well in healing support Kona coffee farmers. John Totten has been a County Appraiser for 22 years. He thanked God and the League of Women Voters for the forum and said he supports having a State Lottery.
Michael Last is running as a Non Partisan and focused on being independent and as he said, no involvement with PACS-which he said stands for “Purchase a Candidate.”
The race of Senate District 4 (North Kona to North Hilo) should prove to be one of the more interesting races in the Primary. Incumbent State Senator Malama Solomon, a Democrat, will be challenged in the Primary by former State Senator Lorraine Inouye, who left her State Senate job in an unsuccessful bid to become Hawaii County Mayor. Inouye’s focus was her experience in working as various committee chairs in her 14 years in the State Senate. She touted her experience in helping institute the Hawaii State Energy Policy which aims to wean Hawaii off its dependence on foreign oil.
Senator Solomon was appointed to her position by Governor Neil Abercrombie after Dwight Takamine left the job to become the administration’s labor department chief, but had previously served in the Senate. Solomon was one of four Democrats who successfully sued the State Reapportionment Commission and got a fourth State Senate seat for Hawaii Island. Her focus was on her support for the Palamanui Community College, which breaks ground in a couple of months, and for Honokohau Harbor She proposed instituting the Native Hawaiian Development Corporation, which will now have the authority to develop some of the lands at Honokohau Harbor in a public-private partnership to, as Senator Solomon said, improve the harbor.
Former Hawaii County Councilman Kelly Greenwell is running for State Senate District 4 as a Green Party candidate. He said he isn’t sure he can be elected, facing Inouye and Solomon, but said he wanted to bring a focus to getting more federal funding for the island. He said the recently-opened Ane Keohokalole Highway is a good example of bringing federal funds into the island and creating jobs while creating much-needed infrastructure. He also said he’s running to stop the Oahu fixed-rail project, which is already underway, as he said that will deflect too much money in federal funding to Oahu.
Candidates weighed in on education. All but Last said they support the Department of Education providing buses to get Big Island keiki to school. Solomon said the DOE has $1.2 billion in state money, and they can afford to do it by cutting their administrative overhead. Green said he does not support the way No Child Left Behind, as it has made the whole focus of education be on testing. He does support teacher evaluations and more focus on adding P.E., nutrition, and arts back into schools. La France supports local school boards, but didn’t talk about how to make that happen with the State Legislature needing to approve it—and the Oahu-based legislators having little incentive to do so. Greenwell supports local school boards as long as the state keeps equality for neighbor islands. Inouye said if there are local school boards on each island, the neighbor islands will be disadvantaged in favor of Oahu. But Green said just like they have created local boards for our state hospitals, local school boards could work similarly. Last said if we have local island school boards, they need to have taxing authority to raise funds. Solomon said she wants to see all the public schools follow the same stringent standards to which charter schools are held. She also said a Carnegie study said the state funding system for schools is good—but she pointed out the state DOE does not follow the laws relating to funds allocation. She said having a local school superintendent in the county would help get the funding properly allocated.
All the candidates said they support bringing the Palamanui campus to fruition. They also said they support providing funding to create a new hospital north of Kailua Village.
The Primary Election is Saturday, August 11, with walk in voting starting July 30. In the Primary, one candidate from each party will be voted in to go on to the Tuesday, November 6 General Election. As this is a “party” race, the General Election will determine the winner.