Independent mayoral candidate slams union for not considering him in endorsement process

A mayoral candidate and some of his union supporters are upset about his being excluded from consideration for endorsement by a large labor union.

Dennis Nimkie, an independent candidate for the nonpartisan mayor’s seat, said he was not invited to participate in candidate interviews for the Hawaii Government Employees Association, and was not extended an invitation to participate in a mayoral forum at the Sheraton Kauai Resort in Po’ipu, where rank-and-file employees are represented by ILWU’s Local 5 Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union.

And he’s mad as heck.

“They’re back to their old ways,” he said, claiming that the unions and their leaders’ allow only Democratic candidates to apply for endorsements, even in nonpartisan races.

They don’t want their members to listen to any new ideas, said Nimkie. “I’m a viable candidate,” and “fed up” with being ignored, he said. “We just can’t seem to turn the corner.”

He said supporters of his campaign employed at the Sheraton Kauai Resort are upset that he wasn’t given an invitation to present his ideas to that hotel’s union during a recent mayoral forum.

Local 5 will not endorse candidates for the Saturday, Sept. 21 primary election, but will endorse candidates for the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election, according to a Local 5 spokesman in Honolulu.

The HGEA, which recently endorsed County Councilmember Randal Valenciano for mayor, represents several groups of state and county government workers.

Leonard Rapozo is the HGEA political action committee Kaua’i island director, and said the committee decided to interview only the three current councilmembers running for mayor: Valenciano, Bryan Baptiste and Chair Ron Kouchi.

“We felt that these three were the ones that we wanted to hear from,” said Rapozo.

But, all candidates were given the opportunity, through an advertisement run in The Garden Island, to write letters to the HGEA requesting PAC interviews in advance of the union’s endorsements, Rapozo explained.

Although Nimkie said he wrote a letter asking for interview time, according to Rapozo’s records the HGEA never received a letter from him.

The HGEA also didn’t interview all 29 council candidates, Rapozo said.

Asked why the HGEA didn’t endorse any candidate in the state House race for the district that includes parts of Wailua, all of Lihu’e and parts of Koloa, Rapozo said no candidate got enough PAC votes.

Incumbent Rep. Ezra Kanoho, a Lihu’e Democrat, is running for re-election in that district, and will be challenged in the general election by the survivor of the Republican primary test between Lihu’e resident Juan Lugo and Dr. Harold C. “Tex” Spear, III, of Puhi.

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

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