In what voters figured would be a tight race because both candidates are popular, challenger Gary Hooser held a commanding lead against incumbent Kaua’i Sen. Jonathan Chun in last night’s Democratic primary election.
With votes from 17 of 21 island precincts in, representing 81 percent of Kaua’i precincts counted, Hooser garnered 6, 703 votes to Chun’s 4,184 votes, essentially giving Hooser a victory.
At a party at the Hanama’ulu Cafe, Chun essentially conceded defeat.
“At this point in time, it is difficult to catch up, and we did the best we can,” Chun said. “I get to be an attorney (again) and a husband. Those are very important things in my life that I am very happy to return to.”
At a victory party at his home in Wailua, Hooser attributed his triumph to a “good relationship with the people of Kaua’i, the people who voted for me.”
Hooser said he anticipated doing well because his campaign was focused. “We worked really hard, knocked on doors in every community,” he said.
He said the support he received was an “honor” and a “humbling experience, just to know that people voted for me.”
Hooser will face Republican challenger Rosie Holt, a former chairperson of the Republican Party of Kaua’i, in the Nov. 5 general election.
Holt said she wants to find solutions to three top issues facing Kaua’i, ” education, the economy and taxation.”
Holt, who ran unopposed in last night’s Republican primary race, collected 1,652 votes in a race that had 1,237 blank votes.
In other Kaua’i legislative races, Dr. Harold Spear III, from East Kaua’i, squeaked by Juan Lugo, of Lihu’e, in the Republican primary for House District 15 by a margin of 368 to 353 votes. There were 484 blank votes in that race.
The district consists of areas in Wailua, Lihu’e, Lawa’i and Koloa.
Spear will now go head to head against incumbent Democrat Ezra Kanoho in the Nov. 5 General Election.
With votes in from 8 of 9 precincts in, Jose M. Felix-Keamoai, a resident of Hanapepe, led JoAnne Georgi, a Kalaheo resident, in the Republican primary for House District 16, with 302 votes to Georgi’s 255 votes.
The district represents Po’ipu, West Kaua’i and Ni’ihau.
The winner of that race will square off against incumbent Democrat state House Rep. Bertha Kawakami, a resident of Hanapepe, in the November election.
For the 14th House District, incumbent Hermina Morita, a Democrat, will face Republican challenger Nelson J. Secretario, a one-time member of the Kaua’i County Council and businessman.
Secretario ran unopposed in his race last night, garnering 425 votes, although there were 333 blank votes with 80 percent of the vote counted.
Morita also ran unopposed in the primary election, collecting 1,838 votes, although there were 1,062 blank votes. Her district includes parts of Wailua, Kapa’a and areas to the end of the road in Ha’ena.
In the state Senate race, Hooser took the lead early on, taking 2,517 votes to 1,877 out of a total of 4,990 Democratic primary absentee votes cast. There were also 596 absentee blank votes.
With a beverage in hand and wearing at least two flower lei, Chun appeared somber as he checked early election results on a television in the Hanama’ulu restaurant.
Afterward, surrounded by family and supporters, Chun said he was not “sad” about losing.
Speaking about his campaign and the effort made by his supporters, Chun said “we have done nothing to be ashamed of” and “I don’t regret anything I have done in the past four years.”
Hooser, a two-term Kaua’i County Councilmember who decided not to run for a council seat to run for the state Senate seat, said he wanted to be a positive force for Kaua’i in the legislature.
Hooser’s “vision” called for supporting education, a key priority with him, promising he would “carry the banner for public education” if elected, stimulating the economy and preserving the environment.
Hooser prides himself as being a product of the Hawai’i school system. Hooser graduated from Radford High School on O’ahu in 1972 and received a two-year degree from Kaua’i Community College and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Hawai’i-West O’ahu, majoring in public administration.
Hooser has said his goals as a legislator would be to have 100 percent staffing at all public schools on Kaua’i and accelerate capital improvement projects at schools.
He also wanted to improve management of state facilities at places like Polihale State Park and Koke’e State Park and Ke’e Beach and expand programs at the Kaua’i Community College and college dormitories.
Among other goals, Hooser said he wanted to create renewable energy and information-based technology jobs, increase state agricultural lands for use by farmers, preserve and protect public lands and public access and support Kaua’i; public health resources.
As a councilman, Hooser
– Initiated three separate property tax reduction ordinances.
– Advocated the protection of public access to beaches and mountains.
– Stopped spending expenditures he thought were not prudent.
– Sponsored a charter amendment calling for a management audit of the county government.
– Expanded services for senior citizens.
– Pushed for an expansion of the county lifeguard program to help reduce drownings.
His work on the council has won him endorsements from many Hawai’i unions, including the Hawai’i State Teachers Association, University of Hawai’i Professional Assembly, the Sierra Club, Hawai’i Nurses Association, Carpenter’s Union Local 745 , and operating engineers’ union.
Hooser is a president and co-founder of H&S Publishing, a Kapa’a business for about 15 years. Hooser lives in Wailua with his wife and two children.
In Chun’s re-election bid, his campaign started slowly, held up by a lengthy legislative session this year.
Yet, helping to craft a lifeguard immunity bill for counties, bringing home nearly 70 million for public improvement projects for Kaua’i in fiscal year 2002-2003 (at a time when the state budget was tight) and passing legislation related to public health, safety and environmental protection were his high points in the 2002 session, Chun said.
Chun has said he also helped obtained about $20 million to support Kaua’i’s agribusiness, a growing industry that will help support the foundation of the Kaua’i’s economy.
A father of three children, Chun and other legislators put through three bills to protect children from sexual exploitation via the Internet.
Chun also said he supports the public school system and that proof of that is his children attending public schools.
Chun, an attorney associated with the Kaua’i law firm of Belles, Graham, Proudfoot & Wilson, was a former deputy county attorney under Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s administration.
Hooser’s challenger in the general election, Holt said she will focus her attention on improving education, improving the economy and providing tax relief to Kaua’i residents if she is elected as the island’s next senator.
Holt has said she supports the creation of seven local school boards and adequate state funding for them, will work with the community to bring to Kaua’i “our fair share of new jobs,” provide tax relief for many Kauaians she says works multiple jobs and senior citizens living on fixed incomes.
In addition, she supports the elimination of the excise tax on food and medical care.
These two taxes hit hardest Kaua’i young working families and senior citizens on fixed incomes, Holt said.
In his election campaign for House District 15, Spear has focused his campaign on health, education and traffic. Spear said the health/medical system is designed for health people, not sick people.
Spear said an interest-bearing, tax-deductible savings account, used with medical insurance, can help improve the health care system.
Spear has called for the use of charter schools and feels home-schooling could help take the load off of overburdened public schools.
Spear also has supported feeder routes and bypass roads to ease traffic problems on the island.
Lugo said he wanted to preserve the rural lifestyle of Kaua’i, improve the school system, solve traffic congestion and “ensure a legacy” for future generations.
Lugo wants to tighten up state and county permitting systems, as a way to be friendlier to business growth on the island.
Spear will now face Kanoho in the Nov. 5 election. Kanoho has held the seat for 16 years. Kanoho heads the House Committee on Water and Land, sits on the House committees on Consumer Affairs, Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs and Energy and Environmental Protection.
Kanoho also was chairman of the House Legislative Management Committee, chairman of the various House Finance subcommittees and a member of the House Finance Committee for 14 years.
In his campaign for House District 16, Felix-Keamoai, a father of a one-year-old, has said improving the school system will be a top priority.
He supports the idea of issuing school vouchers so that low-income families can send their children to private schools. Felix-Keamoai also has said he supports local school boards as away for parents, teachers and the community to control the operation of schools.
Accountability in government is another top issue for Felix-Keamoai.
Georgi, meanwhile, called for a state general excise tax exemption on food and drugs.
Georgi also wanted to address government corruption, a state economy she says discourages people from coming home to work after finishing college careers away from Hawai’i and a “dysfunctional” public school system.