Important races to consider in primary election

Why vote?

It’s just the primary election, right? Might as well wait until the general election?

Well, in a word, no.

Kauai has some important positions that will be determined based on the outcome of Saturday’s vote.

Perhaps the key race is for the prosecutor’s office. County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar is being challenged by Lisa Arin. The person who holds this job oversees a department critical to the justice system on Kauai. The prosecutor sets the tone and the pace for his staff.

Both Kollar and Arin are sharp, skilled attorneys. Kollar has done a fine job for the county in a difficult position of pursuing penalties to fit the crimes for the many cases that end up in his office. He has been a standard for justice and fairness. Arin, who used to work in the prosecutor’s office, has campaigned well. She believes she sees where changes are needed and is an experienced attorney. This could be a close contest, making each vote even more important.

Another key race is for the State House District 14 seat vacated by Derek Kawakami so he could run for County Council.

The two candidates, Nadine Nakamura and Fern Rosenthiel, are also both smart and sharp and dedicated to Kauai.

Nakamura was appointed managing director for the county in 2013 and stepped down from that position in June. She served on the Kauai County Council from 2010-12. She has been a planner for the Department of Transportation for the City and County of Honolulu and project coordinator for the Pacific Housing Assistance Cooperation. The 54-year-old knows well how government operates and how to get things done. She understands the political system.

Rosenthiel is a graduate of Kapaa High School and holds a bachelor’s degree from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, with majors in wildlife management, marine biology and environmental sciences. She’s currently a manager at the Hanalei restaurant and bar, Tahiti Nui, and manages her small business, Anuenue Enterprises, for which she works as a consultant. The 32-year-old from Kapahi would be a leader in protecting the environment here and would bring a fresh perspective to politics that many say is needed.

In somewhat of a disappointment, only six challengers are seeking the seven County Council seats. So, with all seven incumbents seeking reelection to two-year seats, all 13 candidates will pass through to the general election. Because the council basically determines much of what the county does, including approval of its $190 million budget, one might expect there to be far more interest from residents in running for it. Councilmembers deal with roads, taxes, barking dogs, housing and solid waste, to name just a few. The pay isn’t bad and the benefits are terrific. It would seem the vast majority of people are satisfied with the council’s performance; or they just aren’t interested in trying to direct the county; or they have enough to do with looking after a job, home, family and managing their finances.

Senate President Ron Kouchi is seeking reelection to the state Senate. Kouchi has quietly and effectively become a force in the Legislature. His experience, knowledge and leadership are invaluable. The 58-year-old alumni of Waimea High School is one of Kauai’s strongest assets and knows how to see things through.

Kanoe Ahuna is challenging Kouchi. The 43-year-old is the project coordinator for Kauai Nua Kuapapa, a cultural project enacted by the Mayor’s Office that focuses on bringing awareness to Kauai’s rich historical land division system. She is committed to preserving Kauai’s cultural and natural resources and while facing an uphill battle, has the public’s interests at heart.

The race for representative of District 15 features incumbent James Tokioka and challenger Thomas Oi.

Tokioka is seeking his sixth, two-year term as a state House representative for Kauai. He also served on the County Council from 1996 to 2006. The 1979 Kapaa High School graduate has proven himself a committed, dedicated legislator who listens and reacts to the will of the people. He is not outspoken, but will speak his mind when necessary. His experience and influence has served Kauai well.

Oi has held several key positions on Kauai. From 2003 to 2012 he was the district land manager at DLNR Land Division. He currently sits on the DLNR land board, representing Kauai. He was re-appointed to the position this session. He has 26 years as a land surveyor and worked in the Department of Transportation from 1986 to 1996. He brings a strong land background and plenty of experience to the table.

So, should you vote in Saturday’s primary election? Absolutely. The future of Kauai is in your hands.

Let’s heed the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

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