Our view: WHT weighs in on west side races

The false missile alert scare seems a long time ago.

It appeared at the time — when a Hawaii Emergency Management employee mistakenly issued a warning that a ballistic missile was headed for the islands and David Ige’s administration was 38 minutes slow in retracting the erroneous message — that the incumbent was sunk.

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In the game of politics, like sports, high-profile flubs can erase a career of achievement. In the case of the first-term Ige, the missile botch came on the heels of his slow reaction to taking a stance on the protests that clashed on Maunakea in 2015 during the attempted construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

But time has a way of loosening the shackles that bind us as prisoners of the moment.

Looking at the governor’s first four years, there is a lot to support. He’s been a champion of major West Hawaii landscape-changing projects, chief among them turning the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole into just that, an international gateway. He was also instrumental in helping fund the Queen Kaahumanu Highway project — oft delayed, but needed. He cut the cost of government with financial decisions like prepaying employee retirement and health funds, saving $1.8 billion, bringing the state’s bond rating to the highest it’s ever been.

A regular visitor to Hawaii Island, he’s a supporter of NELHA in a drive to find new renewable energy projects as economic drivers. Off the radar, his administration, during its early days, expedited state tax returns for Hawaii residents.

The Honolulu rail project is under his watch, however, and that gives him three high profile strikes. We don’t think they should sink him. Ige was quick in tackling the state’s slow but suddenly out-of-control homeless problem, putting rules and resources in place to combat the issue. West Hawaii has been on the receiving end of funds for projects here, and remains the most progressive outer island region when dealing with the issue.

Hanabusa, to her credit, is every bit as politically qualified to head the state. A smart, tenacious leader, she has a list of accomplishments in her Washington career. But her campaign carried an air of self-appointment and was at times was a bit too negative, too. It didn’t help that she looked disinterested, or perhaps distracted, at a West Hawaii forum.

We’re sticking our necks out, but we think Ige deserves the chance to defend his record in the general election. On the Republican ticket, we’d take Andria Tupola, who is as sharp as they come. It will be intriguing to see how far her political career goes.

Josh Green is our pick for lieutenant governor. The Kona senator and physician is the perfect mind to champion combating homelessness and the drug addiction epidemic plaguing the state sitting one step from the governor. It would be a great win for West Hawaii and the state to see him there.

On the Republican side, we’d take Steve Lipscomb.

The next legislative session will be a big one for Hawaii. The contentious transient accommodations tax allocation over the Honolulu rail project divided Oahu and neighbor island representatives. The split led to District 7 Rep. Cindy Evans resigning her post as House Majority Leader, but after the dust settled, neighbor island-friendly bills managed to still get passed. Whether the latter was an olive branch extended by Oahu representatives, we can’t say, but we’re leaning on battle-tested experience to earn payback next legislative session. Are we due? We think so.

Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye has done good work for Senate District 4, an area that spans from Keahole Point on the island’s west side to Honolii in the east and north to Hawi and the Hamakua Coast. She deserves another term, although we’d like to see a political future for innovative-minded challenger Heather Kimball.

We hope Rep. Richard Creagan wins the race for House District 5, which spans from Kailua-Kona all the way to Naalehu, including Kealakekua, Captain Cook and Ocean View. He’s been a major proponent of a new West Hawaii hospital as well as a leader in agricultural issues and to lose his experience to an inexperienced challenger at this time would be a detriment.

Unopposed Nicole Lowen gets Kona’s House District 6. Up north, we’ll give Evans another term for House District 7, North Kona, South Kohala and North Kohala, over challenger David Tarnas. Tarnas is politically experienced and would represent the area just as well, which is why this will prove to be the toughest race in the field, just as it was last time around, but either way, the district will be well represented.

Kona’s 3rd District Senate seat pits two accomplished county politicians against each other. Like-minded on several key West Hawaii issues, we give our nod to County Councilman Dru Kanuha over former County Councilwoman Brenda Ford. Kanuha has built good relationships on Oahu as a council chair from 2014 to 2016 and as chair of the Governmental Relations and Economic Development Committee. His experience as president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties should be a valuable boon as well.

At the County Council level, incumbent South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David earns our trust in District 6. Kona’s District 7 features four fresh faces as it’s the seat being vacated by Kanuha in his state bid. We’ll take youngster Bronsten Kossow by a hair over Kelly Drysdale. We support Village 9 and the work the Kim administration has done to bring it this far, as does Kossow. But for an inexperienced field, Kona representation looks to be well covered, as Drysdale and Rebecca Rebecca Shute Villegas seem versed beyond their political resumes.

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In District 8, Karen Eoff is unopposed. Up north in 9, we like the upstart Maya Parish and want to give her a crack at revamping the agriculture exemption as a revenue source. We admire Richards’ convictions on the council, and he’s done some good work, but we’re a big proponent of open meetings and sunshine law, which the councilor isn’t.

For U.S. Rep. in Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, it’s Tulsi Gabbard. We’re not opinionated enough on the Republican side to weigh in.