Democrats sweep legislative state races

Democratic candidate Gary Hooser swept past Republican challenger Rosie Holt to take Kaua’i’s Senate seat in last night’s general election.

Hooser, a businessman and two-term member of the Kaua’i County Council, led by a margin of 15,832 votes to Holt’s 5,852 votes in the final tallies.

“I am happy for the overwhelming support I have received,” Hooser said at a victory party at a family member’s home in Lihu’e.

Hooser gained popularity by listening to both sides of an issue and studying them thoroughly before making a decision.

Holt, a former chair person of the Kauai Republican Party, pledged to tackle what she said were three major issues facing Kaua’i – education, the economy and taxation.

In other Kaua’i legislative races:

– In the 14th House District race, Mina Morita, an incumbent Democrat, beat Republican challenger Nelson Secretario, a businessman, by 4,268 to 2,609 votes.

– In the 15th House District race, Ezra Kanoho, an incumbent Democrat who has held the seat for 16 years, easily swept by Republican challenger, Dr. Harold Spear III, by 5,716 to 1,362 votes.

– In the 16th House District race, Bertha Kawakami, another Democratic incumbent, beat Republican challenger Jose Felix-Keamoai 4,962 to 2,076 votes.

In campaigning for the Senate seat, Hooser spoke of his vision for Kaua’i:

– Supporting education. A 1972 graduate of Radford High on O’ahu and a graduate of University of Hawai’i-West O’ahu, majoring in public administration, Hooser emphasized the need to improve education.

– Stimulating the economy by meshing education and diversification.

– Preserving natural and cultural resources.

Once in office, Hooser said he would accelerate capital improvement projects at schools, achieve 100 percent teacher staffing in all Kaua’i schools, improve facilities in state parks and institute better management and create renewable energy and information-based technology jobs.

On the council, Hooser pushed for three property tax reduction ordinances, stopped what he considered to be ill-conceived spending initiatives and expanded funding for services for senior citizens.

He drew endorsements from unions and organizations, including the Hawai’i State Teachers Association, University of Hawai’i Professional Assembly and the Sierra Club.

Hooser is a president and co-founder of H&S Publishing, a Kapa’a business for about 15 years.

His opponent, Holt, proposed elimination of the general excise tax on food and medical care, special funds be put into the general fund, local school boards and “adopt-a-classroom and adopt-a-teacher” programs.

In her reelection bid, Morita urged the state to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel and to pursue alternate energy sources, including use of hydrogen fuel cells.

Morita has supported legislation to curb the high cost of prescription drugs and protected senior citizens from telemarketing schemes and benefits of retired government workers.

Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, Morita has backed a deposit return system for beverage cans and bottles.

Morita serves on the House Water and Land Use, Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs and Consumer Protection and Commerce committees.

Morita’s opponent, Secretario, said he wanted smaller government, opposed using a state hurricane fund to balance the state budget and wanted input from residents on how to use funds for the House district.

In his re-election bid, Kanoho continuously sought funding for King Kaumuali’i, Kapa’a Middle School and Chiefess Kamakahelei School, schools in his district.

Kanoho also supported legislation to provide help to people without prescription drug coverage and low-income residents.

Kanoho also has secured $43 million for the new state Judiciary courthouse and funding for projects at the Lihu’e Airport, Nawiliwili Harbor, Kaua’i state hospitals.

Kanoho heads the House Committee on Water and Land and sits on the House committees on Consumer Affairs, Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs and Energy and Environmental Protection.

In his campaign against Kanoho, Spear voiced support for an interest-bearing, tax-deductible savings account, to work in tandem with medical insurance, to improve the state’s health care system.

Spear also voiced support for charter schools and home-schooling and for feeder routes and bypass roads.

Kawakami will now serve an eighth conservative term. She has supported legislation to lower costs for prescription drugs and to improve Medicaid-related services.

Kawakami has supported Kaua’i’s agricultural industry through state-backed loans and grants and secured funding for the Hanapepe Public Library and the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital.

Prior to entering politics, Kawakami was a lifetime educator, serving as principal at Kekaha and ‘Ele’ele elementary schools, as a Kaua’i district Department of Education educational specialist for curriculum development in language arts and as the Kaua’i deputy district superintendent.

Her Republican opponent, Felix-Keamoai proposed issuing school vouchers and supported local school boards.

Keamoai said he tired of hearing stories of government corruption and scandal and wanted a return of trust in government.

TGI staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 Ext. 224 or email mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net.

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