Candidates trickle in; deadline approaches

With a filing deadline less than two months away, candidates are slowly trickling in to check out or file papers for political offices, according to a check Friday of state election records.

One election official speculated that there hasn’t been much activity among incumbents recently because those holding state or county offices are busy with the current legislative session or with the County Council’s review of next fiscal year’s budget.

Nevertheless, this week saw some, albeit not much, activity among candidates.

Council Member Elle Cochran officially filed Friday to reclaim her West Maui residency seat. She faces challenges from two Lahaina residents – Ka’ala Buenconsejo, a 1991 Baldwin High School graduate who is director of marketing for Na Hoaloha Ekolu ohana and has worked in public relations, the hotel industry and as a mortgage loan officer; and Frederick Nava, a 1976 Lahainaluna High School graduate who owns a photo and video company and is the past president and current treasurer and scholarship committee chairman for the Rotary Club of Lahaina.

In 2012, Cochran was uncontested for re-election. She chairs the council’s Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee and has introduced a bill to require large farms to have pesticide buffer zones and to report pesticide applications and genetically modified organisms in crops.

Wailuku resident Joe Blackburn II, a former fire rescue captain, police officer and safety specialist at Maui Electric Co., filed papers to take another shot at unseating Council Member Mike Victorino for the council’s Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency seat.

Blackburn owns a business that manages homeowners associations and rentals and sells real estate. In 2012, Blackburn finished second in a primary race for the Wailuku council seat, but in the general election he came up short against Victorino, taking 13,335 votes, or 27.3 percent, to the incumbent’s 27,197, or 55.6 percent.

With the campaign theme of “Grow with Joe,” Blackburn said his campaign is giving away free seeds for eggplant, beef steak tomato and a green bean known as “Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean.”

Blackburn has released his platform as a candidate for the council seat. Available at, the platform covers his positions on water development and delivery, fiscal responsibility, the environment and other issues.

Victorino, who chairs the council’s Water Resources Committee, has checked out nomination papers for re-election but had not filed them as of Friday. He has drafted and backed a bill to exempt certain groups of water meter applicants from the water service development fee, now set at $12,060 for a standard residential meter.

Also poised to be in the hunt for the Wailuku council seat is Wailuku resident Jason Scott Williams, who pulled nomination papers Friday.

In other candidate action this month, Kihei Democrat Terez Amato checked out papers to challenge West and South Maui state Sen. Roz Baker, a Democrat who also has pulled papers but not filed.

In an announcement of her candidacy, Amato, a mother of four teenage children, said she’s an advocate for a clean and healthy environment. Her campaign website is at

Baker said Friday that she would file for re-election but was busy working at the state Legislature and was not yet focused on the upcoming election.

Also taking out nomination papers for the West and South Maui Senate seat was Libertarian Bronson Kekahuna Kaahui, a Lahaina resident.

In the race for the Central Maui Senate District 5 seat, Democratic incumbent Gil Keith-Agaran has checked out papers along with Wailuku resident Joseph Kamaka and Christy Ann Gusman, who lists a Puunene Post Office box as her address. Keith-Agaran was elected to the Kahului 9th House District seat in 2012, but Gov. Neil Abercrombie later appointed him to the Senate seat vacated by former Senate President Shan Tsutsui when he was tapped to serve as lieutenant governor.

Former Molokai Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Haliniak has taken a novel approach, checking out nomination papers for the East Maui-Upcountry-Molokai-Lanai Senate seat held by Democrat J. Kalani English, as well as papers for the East Maui-Molokai-Lanai House seat held by Democrat Mele Carroll and the Molokai council residency seat held by Stacy Crivello, who has filed to reclaim the seat.

Elections officials said a candidate may check out papers for as many seats as he or she wants but can only file officially as a candidate for one. Haliniak did not return a phone call to her voice mail Friday seeking a comment on why she’s checked out papers for three different races.

In 2012, Haliniak challenged English and lost to him in the Democratic primary, 5,456 (66.8 percent) to 1,994 (24.4 percent).

English has signed out papers for his 7th Senate District seat and has not filed yet. Carroll has taken out but not filed papers for re-election.

For Maui County seats in the state House, the only incumbent to check out papers is Upcountry Democratic Rep. Kyle Yamashita for re-election to his 12th House District seat, but he has not filed officially as a candidate.

In other Maui House contests, papers have been filed by former mayor and Democrat James “Kimo” Apana for the 9th House District (Kahului) seat held by Democratic Rep. Justin Woodson and by Republican Cranston Kaleialoha Kapoi for the 8th House District (Wailuku-Waiehu-Waihee-Waikapu) seat held by House Speaker Joe Souki, a Democrat.

Republican Lahaina resident Chayne Marten picked up nomination papers for the 10th House District (West Maui) seat held by Democrat Angus McKelvey, and Libertarian Kihei resident Patric Brock took out papers for the 11th House District (South Maui) seat held by Democrat Kaniela Ing.

In the nonpartisan Maui mayor’s race, Mayor Alan Arakawa is one of six candidates to check out papers. The others include Kihei resident Alana Kay, Kahului resident Orion Kopelman, Wailuku resident Carson Nemoto, Lahaina resident Tamara Paltin and Wailuku resident Nelson Waikiki Jr. Only Paltin and Kay have filed officially as candidates for mayor.

Among Maui County Council members, council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa has filed for re-election to her Upcountry residency seat and remained unopposed. Council Vice Chairman Robert Carroll also has filed and is unopposed for his East Maui residency seat.

Kahului Council Member Don Guzman has filed papers for re-election but faces a challenge from former Council Member Joe Pontanilla, who also completed paperwork to be an official candidate.

South Maui Council Member Don Couch has checked out but not filed papers for re-election, and at least two potential candidates for his seat have signed out papers as well John Fitzpatrick and Robin Knox.

In other council races, former Council Member Mike Molina, currently an executive assistant with Arakawa, took out nomination papers for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia seat held by Council Member Mike White, and Lanai Today publisher and editor Alberta de Jetley has signed out papers for the Lanai seat held by Council Member Riki Hokama. White and Hokama had not checked out papers for re-election as of Friday.

June 3 is the deadline for candidates to file nomination papers. The primary election is Aug. 9, and the general election is Nov. 4.

* Brian Perry can be reached at