2018 Kauai election update and hard choices ahead

With only three weeks left until the filing deadline, the latest Office of Elections Candidate Filing Report of Friday, May 11, makes for interesting reading and rife speculation.

At the top of the ticket for the county is the mayor’s race and the contenders so far remain unchanged. Derek Kawakami, Debra Kekaualua, Leonard Rapozo Jr., Melvin Rapozo, and Clint Yago have all pulled papers and filed.

Interestingly councilmember and former mayor JoAnn Yukimura who has announced her candidacy for this seat, and whose signs have been popping up around the island, has not yet taken out nomination papers to run.

Kauai Sen. Ronald Kouchi and Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar are both in the middle of four-year terms and not up for re-election.

The list of candidates for the Kauai County Council continues to grow. Twenty-two individuals have “pulled papers” indicating an interest in running, with 11 of these (indicated in bold) having “filed” indicating they are in active campaign mode.

Dominic Acain, Arthur Brun, Bob Cariffe, Mason Chock Sr., Felicia Cowden, Bill Decosta, Norma Doctor Sparks, Luke Evslin, Victoria Franks, Richard Fukushima, John Hoff, Cecelia Hoffman, Shaylene Iseri, Joseph Kaauwai Jr., Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, Kipukai Kualii, Nelson Mukai, Wally Nishimura, Roy Saito, Shirley Simbre-Medeiros, and Milo Spint.

Projecting forward, the field of Kauai County Council candidates is destined to be a large one. With 11 candidates having already filed, plus the high likelihood that all four incumbents (in italics) will eventually file, translates to 15 confirmed candidates with 3 weeks still remaining for new candidates to jump in. Clearly the fact there are three “empty seats” up for grabs due to the departure of three incumbents, continues to motivate new candidates and this in my opinion is a good thing.

For the State House of Representatives, the three incumbents: District #14 Nadine Nakamura, District #15 James Tokioka and District #16 Daynette “Dee” Morikawa are so far running unopposed. Most students of government and politics would say that competition is a good thing, and it is likely that at least one of these incumbents will have a serious challenger.

The final day for filing papers as a candidate in any and all races is not until June 5, and consequently all of the above is subject to change.

There remains a sense of dissatisfaction among many with the candidate choices available so far. This feeling seems strongest among those citizens concerned about the impacts of unrestrained growth. The unrelenting traffic, the astronomical rents and the crowded beach parks are constant reminders of the unavoidable impact the visitor industry has on our island. Yet there is little mention of this issue by most candidates, let alone proposals for potential solutions. The “M word” is avoided like the plague with incumbents and challengers alike sticking to the premise that there is little the County can do and that a moratorium on growth is outside the realm of County options.

There are of course options the county could pursue to aggressively address all three core issues of traffic, affordable housing and degrading public facilities at our beach parks. There are also strategies the county could pursue to limit growth, based on the availability of infrastructure and thus force new growth into existing urban areas.

These are not new problems but they have now reached a tipping point, where the publics frustration is at a peak, and where political action is therefore possible. In the world of public policy and politics, most would say the issue of growth management is “ripe” for political action. Actually, it is over-ripe and will soon begin to reek with the odor of rotting vegetables. I digress.

This ripeness of the issue presents an opportunity for new candidates especially, to distinguish themselves. Those who are willing to discuss the issue and who demonstrate a willingness to consider the tough choices necessary to begin managing our islands growth, are in my opinion the candidates to watch and support.

Election years always represent an opportunity for change. Now is the time when residents must obtain commitments from those seeking their votes. Now is the time for residents to frame the debate, force a public discussion on the issues that matter most to us, and then select those candidates, committed to working on solutions.

The challenges and impacts of seemingly unrestrained growth compounded with an infrastructure that is woefully inadequate, must become the defining issue of this election. Trust me on this one. When the people lead, government will follow.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. Hooser should run! May 16, 2018 5:27 am Reply

    The one person who has a great record of leadership and who represents the values of so many on Kauai and would continue the fight for environmental justice, Gary Hooser, should be recruited to run for council! Even if it takes dragging him to the elections office kicking and screaming!

  2. Amused May 16, 2018 8:59 am Reply

    More sniping from the sidelines by Hooser. What did he ever do to address tourism impacts and restrain growth while he was on the Council and in the Lege? This congestion didn’t happen overnight. As for trusting Hooser on anything, hahahaha!

  3. Debra Kekaualua May 16, 2018 10:44 am Reply

    I am not afraid. I WILL use the Moratorium word Often in the presentation i have made to enhance WE THE PEOPLE. Not tourism, not continuing the current game plans, all for them and none for We the People. Facing forward with truth and integrity has heretofore been the winner at least where the big book is concerned. Those currently seated and several “running” have always, always left a lot to be desired and the lies or maneuvers are rampant. I have been noted to be “mean”, but that is a great tag. It is time to Huli. My initial comments will address every concern and i plan to describe first and foremost, that I would never lie or lead you astray. All the others i know too well and i have witnessed their ommissions and disgusting momentum. It is all about money and politicomilitary corporates taking us down a useless road to more war and more corrupted Values that have always been missing. I do not intend to beat any horses. Most of us know all the stories and we have seen the agenda up close and intimate, to dismiss and carry on. NOT this time. What we do need is to have several public community gatherings to meet and great your candidates and to know who you are, not what people expect you to be.

    1. Random Citizen May 17, 2018 8:44 am Reply

      Are you running on a platform of xenophobia? Maybe you could make a campaign promise of lining up all the haole and sending them back where they came from; Or promise to build a wall around the island so high that even airplanes can’t get through. It worked for Trump, it might work for you! From your comments in TGI you come across as a kindred spirit of his.

  4. No_They_Didn't May 16, 2018 2:10 pm Reply

    What do the candidates know about Honolulu International Airport or Hikam Air Force Base? The name supposedly has been changed. Something like Stan Sheriff Center on Lower campus, Manoa.

  5. No_They_Didn't May 16, 2018 4:39 pm Reply

    Not smart or nerd candidates on two candidates. May fake election again. No results done. CIP

  6. Steve Martin May 16, 2018 8:02 pm Reply

    ” election years always represent an opportunity for change”… And yes even with you boasting the 8 political years being a part of it our biggest problems are worse than ever and getting worse everyday. You prove my point there is nothing politicians or politics is going to do to change the situation. It going to take the best of the best professional managers to solve the issues and you are not going to elect them you will only find the answers by hiring them. You can trust me on this one the private sector of professional management are the leaders of solutions and government will never understand how to follow.

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