HGEA highlights their Kaua’i candidates

LIHU’E – County Councilmember Randal Valenciano, one of four candidates for Kaua’i mayor this year, thanked the Hawai’i Government Employees Association for interviewing candidates before making endorsements.

Not all unions interview campaigners prior to announcing candidate endorsements, and Valenciano, who is a Democrat and an attorney used to public speaking, appreciated the chance to exchange ideas with the HGEA’s local political action committee (PAC).

Valenciano said he is grateful to the public-worker union’s endorsement for the upcoming primary election, saying he also supports the seven HGEA endorsements for County Council.

“There’s nobody here I can’t work with,” said Valenciano at a press conference at the HGEA building on ‘Akahi Street here Monday afternoon.

Valenciano said he has always enjoyed a working relationship with the HGEA, and has always operated under the idea that every public worker is important.

He pledged to maintain that idea if elected mayor. “I will continue to work hard to make your endorsement count,” he said.

“We are in the election with the intent of getting elected,” and one of his campaign themes is “every voice counts.” Government must be responsive, and government can’t be responsive if it doesn’t listen to all voices, he said.

The other two councilmembers who are running for mayor, Chair Ron Kouchi, a Democrat, and Bryan Baptiste, a Republican, both said their campaigns would not stall as a result of not gaining HGEA endorsement.

Kouchi admitted he was “surprised” that he didn’t win the HGEA endorsement, something he has enjoyed during his 20-year council career.

“They made the call that’s within their own best interests,” said Kouchi, adding that he is certain the HGEA PAC had a difficult time having to choose just one mayoral endorsement.

He remains supportive of HGEA members and their programs, he said.

Some HGEA members are Kouchi supporters, and he welcomes any other HGEA members who wish to help with his campaign, he said.

But he’ll not let the lack of HGEA endorsement “paralyze” his campaign in any way, he said via telephone while on his way to Wailua to knock on doors yesterday afternoon.

“I guess I had already known” about not getting the HGEA endorsement, said Baptiste, who has never enjoyed an HGEA endorsement.

“What’s important is what the membership will do,” not necessarily the PAC, Baptiste said. He has support from within the HGEA, and said they welcome a Baptiste administration where they can provide real input into decision-making, he said.

Dennis Nimkie, the fourth mayoral candidate who is running as an independent, wasn’t invited to be interviewed for possible HGEA endorsement, and didn’t respond to a telephone call seeking comment about not being endorsed.

County Councilmember Gary Hooser, a Democrat running for state Senate, said he wasn’t surprised about getting the HGEA endorsement this year, but was surprised he didn’t get endorsed by the HGEA in his two successful council campaigns.

“Now I have a relationship with them, a track record” from four years on the council, Hooser said.

Hooser said he appreciated the fact that the HGEA understands that he prides himself on his independence, and the union recognizes that spirit of being open to new ideas.

State House incumbents Rep. Bertha Kawakami (D, south and west Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) and Rep. Mina Morita (D, north and east Kaua’i) both garnered HGEA endorsements, as did the three council incumbents not seeking other office: Bill “Kaipo” Asing, Daryl Kaneshiro and Jimmy Tokioka.

All enjoyed HGEA endorsements before.

Mel Rapozo, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 1998, had HGEA support that year, and enjoys it again, as does former Councilmember Maurice “Joe” Munechika and first-time candidates Ernest Moniz and Ray Paler.

The HGEA announced its endorsements last week, including U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (D, Neighbor Islands and rural O’ahu) for re-election to her second district seat, and D.G. “Andy” Anderson and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, both Democrats, for governor.

The endorsements reflect the “spirit” of the community of Kaua’i and state of Hawai’i, said Russell K. Okata, HGEA executive director.

Each of the candidates has a long list of local accomplishments, said Okata, adding that yesterday’s press conference marked the first time he met some of the endorsed candidates.

Candidate interviews, examination of platforms and voting records, and much dialogue and research were conducted before endorsements were announced, he continued.

“Randal’s dedication to improving the lives of Kaua’i residents is unquestioned,” Okata said. “He puts people first. He is committed to keeping jobs and creating new jobs for Kaua’i, while protecting and nourishing the culture, lifestyle and environment that make Kaua’i the garden island of Hawai’i,” he continued.

“Randal and our other supported candidates share a passion to serve the community, and a sincere compassion for its people. The HGEA enthusiastically supports their candidacy, and we will inform our 2,648 Kaua’i members to consider voting for them,” Okata added.

“We learned about them, and they learned about us,” said Leonard Rapozo, island director of the HGEA PAC, of the interview and endorsement process.

Some candidates endorsed in the past weren’t endorsed this year, and some candidates not endorsed in the past gained HGEA endorsement this year, he added.

The candidates are “special” to the HGEA, and “worthy” of members’ support, said Rapozo. “The fun is over. That was the easy part,” he said of picking the HGEA endorsements.

Now, the task is to educate the HGEA Kaua’i members about why they should vote for the endorsed candidates, “and we’re going to start today.”

Campaign training immediately followed the press conference, and a bank of nearly a dozen telephones waited behind the podium, to be used by HGEA members to call fellow members and remind them to vote, and to ask their support for the endorsed candidates.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).


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