Having spent yesterday focusing on the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor, we will now focus our attention to the Democrats vying for the same position. There is a strong group of candidates to choose from and there will be some tough choices in the primary. Join Desperate America Report and the Honolulu Coffee Party Examiner as we discuss the Democratic challengers.
Sen. Bobby Bunda is a Democratic candidate and is currently the President of the Senate of the State of Hawai’i. Bunda grew up in the Wahiawa area and graduated from Leilehua High School. He went on to serve in the US Air Force as well as stints with both the Texas and Hawaii National Guards. Sen. Bunda serves the 22nd Senate District. He has served in the Hawaii legislature for the last seventeen years. He served as State Representative from 1983-1993, and has been in the Senate since 1994. Sen. Bunda was the first Filipino American to serve as President of any State Legislature in the United States.
Sen. Bunda has publicly stated his support for the use of land trusts to combat the problem of affordable housing. He has pointed to the need to find a “sustainable” strategy for the future. Hawaii currently has a major homeless problem and is desperately searching for a solution. Along with a push for affordable housing, Bunda has advocated for a local workers provision. Sen. Bunda would like to require at least 80% of workers for public works projects and construction procurements be Hawaii residents. Bunda believes that the money given to the local workers will stimulate the economy, rather than paying non-residence workers who likely send their money back home.
State Rep. Lyla Berg represents the 18th district. Berg grew up in Hawaii but spent much of her youth traveling the world. She was introduced to the rich cultures of Europe and became fluent in various languages during her time at Punahou School. Rep. Berg currently serves as Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee. She has served in the Hawaii legislature since 2004 and was previously the Principal of Kailua Intermediate School. Rep. Berg founded Kids Voting Hawaii in 1996 in an attempt to provide children in grades K-12 with the necessary information to participate in democracy.
Rep. Berg is focused on returning the children of Hawaii to the classrooms while providing a safe learning environment. She talks about the need to place high quality educators in the classrooms to create a solid core for the community. An end to furloughs would also allow Berg to return the essential services such as the courts and assistance to needy families. A former school administrator, the children of Hawaii are the main focus for Lyla Berg.
Gary Hooser is a State Senator representing Kauai and Niihau. Sen. Hooser has served in the Senate since 2003 and has previously spent four years on the Kauai County Council. He is currently the Majority Leader and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee. He is known for his open door policy and accessibility for his constituents. Hooser authored the Solar Mandate Bill in 2008 that required all homes being built after January 1, 2010 to have solar water heaters or a similar system in place. He is also a staunch supporter of civil-unions and pushed for the passage of HB444.
Sen. Hooser has a focus on natural energy resources which would help keep a percentage of the estimated $7 billion spent on importing oil. The idea is to keep the money in Hawaii and allow for small businesses to invest in the future of the state. Hooser pushes for universal pre-school for Hawaii’s keiki. The proposal would allow every child the opportunity to gain the basic skills needed to succeed in school.
Rep. John Riki Karamatsu has served the 41st District of Hawaii since 2002. He was elected into office at the age of 27. Karamatsu grew up in the Pearl City area and attended Pearl City High School. He won the Hawaii House seat by without any big name endorsements and against a seasoned opponent. He was able to earn the trust of voters in the Waipahu and Kunia areas with his hard work and tenacious attitude.
Karamatsu is the Chair on the Judiciary Committee and has served as Majority Whip on two separate occasions. Karamatsu earned a law degree from Gonzaga University and has practiced as an attorney since 2001. He runs on a platform highlighted by a green facility tax credit for facilities that produce clean energy. He also would like to create an international liaison office for the Hawaii State Legislature which would explore possible partnerships with other countries. Karamatsu supports the building a multi-use racecar track to attract national and international races. Hawaii has been without a race track for a number of years and has seen an increase in reckless driving and speeding charges.
Senator for the 15th district, Norman Sakamoto is the Chair of the Senate Education and Housing Committee. Sen. Sakamoto was elected in 1996. The Senator once made a living as a general contractor and engineer in Hawaii and California. Sakamoto is believed to be one of the front-runners for the nomination and has built up a strong following during his time in the Senate. He has served as a Military Youth Councilor at Radford High School as well as the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii Education Committee.
Sakamoto has since made the issues of education and affordable housing the focus of his attention. Sen. Sakamoto has offered a variety of briefs on the subject which can be found on his campaign website.
The former four-term State Representative and Hawaii Democratic Party Chair, Brian Schatz has stepped back into the political world. Schatz served in the legislature from 1998-2006 as State Representative of the 25th district. Schatz then ran unsuccessfully for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional seat. He found a place with the Hawaii Democratic Party and was elected chair in 2008. Schatz saw the number of registered Democrats rocket from 21,000 to over 49,000 during his time as chair. Schatz has partly attributed the hike in members to the election of Hawaii-born Barack Obama. However, it must be noted that Schatz aggressively went after the younger voters and bridged the gap to the older generations of Democrats in Hawaii.
He now runs for office on a platform of focusing and adhering to the standards of the “Race to the Top” program under President Obama. Hawaii is currently a finalist in the recent round of schools. The switch to the national standards would better equip Hawaii’s schools with the necessary requirements to compete in the program. Schatz also looks at strengthening the relationship of non-profits and the government. The idea is to relieve some of the burden on tax payers while still providing important services. He is also focused on investing in renewable energy. Hawaii spends too much money importing oil and needs to utilize the limitless potential currently untapped.
The Democratic Party of Hawaii has provided voters with a talented bunch of candidates for the Lt. Governor position. It will be fun to see which candidates gain the upper hand in the coming weeks. As time ticks away, it will be interesting to see how each campaign goes about explaining their platforms and past work. All of the contenders have had experience as a legislator and will have to defend their records. It will be a tough race.
Sen. Bunda and Sen. Sakamoto are the early favorites because of their history and large war chests. However, they will need to focus on the issues and getting their visions to the public. Expect a strong push from Hooser and Berg as they become more familiar with voters and get their name out in the public. We see this race ending with some mix of Hooser, Sakamoto, and Berg in the top three slots.
Join us on Thursday as we take a look at the Democratic candidates for the two US House seats up for grabs this election.
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