Kusaka considering run against Hooser for state Senate seat

Former Kaua‘i mayor Maryanne Kusaka came close Wednesday to committing to run in the 2004 Kaua‘i County election against incumbent state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i.

A chili and rice rally held Wednesday evening at the Kukui Grove Pavilion was staged by representatives of the local building industry and the Filipino community, as well as some of Kusaka’s political supporters.

“I’m looking at it,” Kusaka said when asked if she will run against Hooser, who was elected in the 2002 Kaua‘i County election. “I hope to make a decision sometime in the early, or middle, part of October.”

The former mayor, who is a Republican, said she is looking closely at what it would take to reorganize her campaign supporters. At the event a volunteer began signing up those interested on working on Kusaka’s campaign, should she choose to run.

Addressing a gathering of about 100, Kusaka said it will take a minimum of $130,000 in campaign fundraising to win the election. In addition, grass roots campaigning will be critical if she is to win.

Pumping up a bit in front of the partisan gathering, Kusaka said, “If we say to the newspapers we are entering this race we will win this race.”

Kusaka said that attracting new residents of Kaua‘i to the voting booth is a key factor in upcoming elections, as well as gaining the support of the island’s business community.

Joining Kusaka at the casual gathering was state Sen. Fred Hemmings n a Republican whose wide ranging district includes the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a portion of Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo, Queen’s Gate, and a portion of Hawaii Kai n touted Kusaka’s success in the mid- and late-1990s in rebuilding Kaua‘i’s economy and bringing back visitors to Kaua‘i following the devastation of Hurricane ‘Iniki.

“She took the helm of the island and confronted one of the greatest natural disasters ever seen,” Hemmings said.

Hemmings also tied Kusaka’s potential candidacy to the administration of Republican Gov. Linda Lingel.

Ron Agor, head of Kaua‘i’s Republican Party, said the gathering wasn’t sponsored by the Republican Party, and was held to see what interest there is in both backing Kusaka in the state senate race, and to encourage the former mayor to run.

“The County of Kaua‘i is doing well financially because of what she did,” said Agor, who is an architect.

Mayor Bryan Baptiste, who successfully ran as a Republican in the 2002 race on an island known as a Democratic stronghold, attended the gathering.

TGI Editor Chris Cook can be reached at ccook@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 227).

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