7 names in running for vacancy in state House

A former Maui County mayor and a former County Council member are among seven qualified Democratic applicants who want to fill the state House of Representatives seat vacated by Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran, who was appointed to fill a Central Maui state Senate seat on Monday.

Those in the running to fill the House District 9 seat, which includes Kahului, Puunene, Maui Lani and the old Sand Hills are:

* James “Kimo” Apana, former mayor from 1999 to 2003, businessman and Realtor.

* Anthony Edington, a chef who has worked at various businesses including Westin Maui, Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas and Kapalua Bay Hotel.

* Renee-May Kehau Filimoe’atu, Maui Police Department Communications Section supervisor for the emergency 911 dispatch section.

* Alan Fukuyama, Maui island manager for Business Works Hawaii, who has made three unsuccessful bids for a seat on the Maui County Council.

* Kallie Keith-Agaran, wife of Gil Keith-Agaran, educator and a consultant.

* Joe Pontanilla, former Maui County Council member for the Kahului residency seat, current Maui County Community Development Block Grant specialist.

* Justin Woodson, owner of Woodson’s Eco Auto Wash in Kahului, former Realtor on Oahu.

At least three of the applicants have some history with the seat they seek to fill.

In the 2012 primary election, Pontanilla unsuccessfully challenged Keith-Agaran for the House seat. In an interview last year shortly before the end of his council term, because of term limits, Pontanilla had said that anything was possible, leaving the door open for a future run in politics.

In 2008, Filimoe’atu, was one of three people, including Gil Keith-Agaran, to be considered for the House District 9 seat after the death of longtime Central Maui state Rep. Bob Nakasone. Then-Gov. Linda Lingle picked Keith-Agaran for the seat.

In 2008, Apana filed papers to run as a Democrat for the seat, but he later withdrew his name when he learned Nakasone was running for re-election. At the time, Nakasone had been battling lung cancer and spent some time deciding whether to run.

The seven applicants will meet this afternoon with the District 9 Council, which makes up the official nominating committee for the seat, according to an announcement from the Maui County Democratic Party.

The committee will hear each candidate for up to 10 minutes. Committee members will be able to vote for up to three candidates, but not for the same person.

The committee is made up of eight members who may also vote by proxy, said Troy Hashimoto, corresponding secretary for the Maui County Democratic Party.

The meeting is not open to the public.

The top three vote-getters will have their names forwarded to the chairmen of the Maui County and Hawaii Democratic parties. They will then forward the names to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has 60 calendar days following the first day of the vacancy to make an appointment to the House seat.

The state Legislature’s opening day is Wednesday.

The Dec. 17 death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye set off a chain reaction of appointments by Abercrombie. Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz was appointed to fill the U.S. Senate seat. Central Maui Sen. Shan Tsutsui was tapped to serve as lieutenant governor, and Keith-Agaran was appointed to Tsutsui’s seat.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.