Few foes so far for House incumbents

All three of Kaua’i’s members of the state House of Representatives are up for

re-election this fall, and so far two of them have opponents.


yesterday, as the candidate filing period continued, incumbents Hermina Morita

and Bertha Kawakami had drawn opposition from a Natural Law Party entrant and a

businessman, respectively.

The third incumbent, Ezra Kanoho, was


The Kaua’i representatives and the rest of the 51 state House

members are seeking two-year terms.

Here is a look at each of the Kaua’i

candidates who have filed papers to run for the offices:

* 12th

District (east Maui, north Kaua’i)

Hanalei resident Hermina M. “Mina”

Morita, a Democrat, is the married mother of two daughters. She is a full-time

legislator, chairwoman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection

Committee, and an assistant Majority Floor Leader.

Morita also sits on the

House committees on Consumer Protection and Commerce, Judiciary and Hawaiian

Affairs, Ocean Recreation and Marine Resources, and Water and Land Use. It is

her focus on environmental and energy issues in her chair committee that she is

most proud of, she said.

Getting cultural impacts recognized as important

for environmental review of proposed projects is one of her biggest

accomplishments, she said. Also, though Gov. Ben Cayetano vetoed a bill that

would have established statewide standards for rural roads, the state

Department of Transportation Highways Division will still include those

standards, she continued.

Also not passed during the last legislative

session was a bill establishing renewable energy portfolio standards for the

state. Morita said that debate will continue in the 2001 and 2002 legislative

sessions, as it is a crucial component for both economic development and

economic recovery.

“That’s what I want to accomplish in the next two years:

A strong energy policy, and developing the energy vision for the next 10 to 20

years,” Morita said.

Kilauea resident Ann E. West-Trickle is the only other

person who has filed papers to seek the 12th District state House seat. The

Natural Law Party candidate was unavailable for comment.

To date, there are

no Maui residents in this race. The majority of registered voters in the

district are Kaua’i residents.

* 13th District (Puhi, Lihu’e,


Democrat incumbent Ezra Kanoho is to date the only candidate for

this seat. A member of the House Finance Committee all 14 of his years in the

House, he is an assistant Majority Floor Leader, has chaired the House

Legislative Management Committee for the last eight years, and is vice chairman

of the Water and Land Use Committee.

Also a member of the Energy and

Environmental Protection and Ocean Recreation and Marine Resources Committee,

Kanoho, 72, lives in Lihue with his wife Pauline.

They have four grown

sons and six grandchildren.

A full-time legislator who worked for GTE

Hawaiian Telephone for nearly 40 years, Kanoho said he is most proud of the

amount of money for projects he has been able to secure for the island.

“We did quite a bit for education,” he said, including securing $34.5

million in funding for the Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School opening next

month in Puhi.

He also points to economic initiatives, including lots of

tax credits, he said he helped pass during 1999-2000.

Kanoho is confident

that a bill can pass the 2001 Legislature granting counties and state immunity

from lawsuits arising from accidents occurring at public facilities. Mainly,

this legislation would allow county lifeguards to patrol state beaches without

exposing the counties or state to lawsuits in case of drownings or injuries at

beaches offering lifeguard protection.

Juan Lugo, a Lihue resident and

Republican, has taken out papers to run against Kanoho. At presstime, however,

he had not filed papers.

* 14th District (Koloa, Waimea, Ni’ihau)


Democratic incumbent in this district is Hanapepe resident Bertha Kawakami,

seeking her seventh consecutive term after being appointed to the seat held

previously by her late husband, Richard Kawakami.

Bertha Kawakami, a

full-time legislator, worked in education before entering the House.

Educational issues remain key for her, she said.

Vice chairwoman of the

House Finance Committee, she has secured funds for educational facilities,

libraries, personnel and technological infrastructure for schools across the


She is also a member of House committees on Health and Human

Services and Housing, and has been in support of legislative initiatives to

strengthen the Kaua’i economy, promote tourism and diversified agriculture and

the island’s construction industry.

Kawakami supports Native Hawaiian

sovereignty and is a member of the state House Hawaiian Caucus.


again challenging Kawakami is John Hoff, 60, of Lawa’i.

“I am a family

candidate,” versus Kawakami the special-interest candidate, said Hoff, a

Republican, father, small-business owner and community volunteer active in the

Adopt-A-Teacher program and other initiatives.

He ran against Kawakami two

years ago, angered by a $48 million non-bid contract awarded by Gov. Ben

Cayetano on O’ahu.

Hoff is married with three sons and a daughter, is a

Coast Guard and Peace Corps veteran. He has been on Kaua’i for 37 years.


expressed disappointment that Kawakami turned down the prestigious and powerful

position of chairwoman of the House Finance Committee. He said the committee

chairman, Rep. Dwight Takamine, secured $57 million for public school

improvements on the Big Island, while Kawakami brought home only $3.8


The Big Island got around 20 percent of all state Department of

Education capital improvement project funding, while Kaua’i received about 1.5

percent, Hoff said. Where colleges are concerned, the Big Island received $11

million for the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, while Kaua’i Community College

got zero, he added.

Hoff said he wants former sugar cane fields to once

again be productive (he has governmental permission to grow industrial hemp for

rope, clothing and other items), and he wants to get overpasses installed

between Puhi and Lihue to eliminate traffic signals that he said contributes to

the daily bumper-to-bumper traffic on that stretch of Kaumuali’i


He also said he questions why the state’s public hospital system

is in such financial trouble.

Staff writer Paul C. Curtis can be

reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or pcurtis@pulitzer.net


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