Kanuha looks to state Senate as Green mulls lieutenant governor

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HILO — With a year to go before candidate qualifying ends for the 2018 election, Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha is ready to make the leap to the state Legislature.

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HILO — With a year to go before candidate qualifying ends for the 2018 election, Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha is ready to make the leap to the state Legislature.

Kanuha, 33, said he’s seriously considering a run for the District 3 state Senate seat that’s almost certain to be vacated by Sen. Josh Green, a Democrat who intends to run for lieutenant governor.

Also giving the office some thought are Rep. Nicole Lowen, a Democrat representing Kona, and Rep. Richard Creagan, a Democrat representing Ka‘u. Kanuha is also a Democrat.

Senate District 3, which covers Kona and Ka‘u, runs from Kalaoa to Honuapo. Green, 47, has been in the state Senate since 2008, having served two terms in the state House before that.

He said Friday he’s spoken to the three about the seat, adding, “they would all make good senators.” The advance notice gives the three additional time to build their campaign coffers, which can later be transferred to another race.

“I intend to run for lieutenant governor,” Green said.

Green, who has to give up a safe Senate seat to run, said he will make his final decision and announcement in the fall. He’s already accumulated a war chest nearing $500,000.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, a Maui Democrat, has indicated he’ll likely run for Maui mayor. In addition to Green, almost a half dozen state legislators, all Democrats, and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, a former Republican who reportedly recently registered as a Democrat, have expressed an interest in running.

Kanuha, 33, is on his third two-year term in the council and is able to run for a fourth before he’s term-limited. But he said last week that being on the council and more fully understanding the needs of West Hawaii make him feel confident he could more effectively serve in a higher office.

“West Hawaii is one of the most diverse places in Hawaii, with urban areas and historic villages, and an ever-growing and changing population,” Kanuha said in a statement following up on a conversation Wednesday. “Seeing the growth of West Hawaii and learning more and more about the opportunities that lay ahead of our Hawaii Island, the importance of strong leadership and representation at the state level became clear. Because of this, I am considering a run for the state Legislature.”

Creagan, 72, said he’s had people advising him both to run for Senate and to stay in his current House position. He’s chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, an important position for the Big Island, he said.

“Currently, the field of people proposing to run is so large it’s a little preliminary for me to think about making a decision,” Creagan said. “I sense this is a period of exploration. … It’s like putting bait out there and see who snaps it up.”

Candidate filing starts Feb. 1 and ends June 5. The primary is from July 30 to Aug. 11, 2018, and the general election, from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6 next year, including early walk-in voting.

Lowen, 44, isn’t ready to make a decision yet.

“There is still a lot of time and a lot of things that could happen to change the current circumstances, so I think it’s too early to decide,” she said.

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Creagan agreed.

“Things can change so rapidly and powerfully in politics,” Creagan said.

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