Arakawa ‘leaning very strongly’ at run at council seat

Mayor hasn’t ruled out bid for governor, lieutenant governor

Alan Arakawa

Alan Arakawa

Mayor Alan Arakawa is “leaning very strongly” toward running for his former Kahului residency seat on the Maui County Council, but he has not ruled out a bid for governor or lieutenant governor.

“There’s a strong attraction to be able to sleep at home and work in my backyard while in office,” Arakawa said in a phone call Thursday. “If I run for governor, I have to live in Honolulu and your whole lifestyle changes. Both my children are on Maui and my wife — I think she really wants to stay here so that’s probably a consideration for the Kahului seat.”

Arakawa had previously announced his intention to run for lieutenant governor in May, but he sent out an email Tuesday notifying his supporters of his run for council. Arakawa was originally voted into the seat in 1994 and served three straight terms before serving as mayor from 2003 to 2006.

He returned to the mayoral office in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014, but he cannot seek another four-year term due to term limits. Arakawa would replace current Kahului Council Member Don Guzman, who announced his candidacy for mayor in September.

Candidates may begin pulling nomination papers on Feb. 1. The deadline to file is June 5.

“A lot of things have changed in the last few weeks,” Arakawa said of the switch. “I’m very seriously considering the Kahului seat, but a lot of it depends on final circumstances. Until we pull the final papers, I still have the option to look at different possibilities and see whether or not the circumstances are what I would like them to be.”

Arakawa said “a lot of people” continue to push him to run for governor, which he says is now a “stronger possibility” than the state’s second highest office. He said he has an “organizational structure” in Honolulu to vie for either position, but there are appealing aspects to staying on Maui.

As a council member, Arakawa would be able to push projects and initiatives he began as mayor to completion. Efforts include a new permit process within departments, community plans, homelessness and working with Alexander & Baldwin on acquiring Maliko Gulch.

“I’m working on over a hundred different programs,” he said. “To be able to keep track of those and finish them out is something I’m weighing.”

Arakawa would have more authority as governor, however, and could assist Maui County in ways the state has “slighted” it. Former Mayor Linda Lingle is the last and only Maui resident to become governor, serving from December 2002 to December 2010.

Running for governor would undoubtedly be more difficult than council or lieutenant governor. Arakawa would face Gov. David Ige and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary.

He could run as a Republican, which he did when County Council seats were partisan, and would likely face Hawaii Rep. Andria Tupola in the primary. Regardless of his party or residency, though, Arakawa was confident in his abilities.

“It’s not where we live; it’s our capability,” Arakawa said. “I’ve been an administrator running this organization for 12 years when I’m done with this term. (Ige), it’s very apparent he is struggling with a lot of the administrative duties and Colleen Hanabusa has been a legislator. She doesn’t really have a strong administrative background.

“I’ve been able to run an organization, and now Maui County is one of the top counties in the nation.”

Arakawa focused on education, highways and homelessness as major issues the state has not addressed. He said he has spent a “considerable amount of time” analyzing different departments and how he would work with them on a day-to-day basis.

“We need leadership at the state level to do really good planning, and it’s just not there,” he said. “Do I feel capable? Yes. Am I going to do it? I’m still thinking about it.”

While Arakawa has taken numerous trips around the world, he said the only time he has lived away from Maui for an extended period was as a student at the University of Hawaii for four years.

“I could live in Honolulu, but Maui is where I’d really love to be,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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