WAILUKU - Longtime County Council Member Joe Pontanilla will challenge attorney and incumbent Gil Keith-Agaran for the Central Maui state House seat in the Primary Election.
Both are Democrats, so the primary on Aug. 11 will be the only contest for both men, who are well-known on the Valley Isle. The winner will capture the seat because there is no Republican opposition.
"It should be a good race. It gives people a choice," said Keith-Agaran. "I think people in (the) community know Joe. Hopefully, they know me as well, and they know I have been working pretty hard over the last four years."
State Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran and Maui County Council Member Joe Pontanilla got their campaigns rolling Tuesday afternoon. Pontanilla, the longtime council member who has to give up his seat due to term limits, will take on the incumbent in the Central Maui House District 9 race. Keith-Agaran was canvassing homes in Kahului.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The 49-year-old Kahului resident has served in the state House, representing Kahului, Wailuku, Puunene, Spreckelsville and Paia, since 2009. He was appointed to the position by then-Gov. Linda Lingle after Rep. Bob Nakasone died. Keith-Agaran was elected to the seat in 2010.
Pontanilla, current vice chairman of the Maui County Council, has spent 10 years in the council's Kahului residency seat and can no longer run because of term limits. Over the years, Pontanilla, 70, has served as the council's budget and finance committee chairman.
"As a council member representing the Kahului district as well as Maui County, I feel that I know the wants and needs of our community, not only Kahului but the entire county. It is an opportunity for me to take some of the concerns to the state level," Pontanilla said.
Candidates for Office
This is the list of candidates running for office according to the Office of Elections website as of 5:15 p.m.
Tuesday; some candidates who filed on Oahu may not be listed. Not all races listed below will be on the Primary Election ballot. Names denoted with an * indicate incumbents.
Michael D. Gillespie
Arturo Pacheco (Art) Reyes
Charles Augustine Collins
John P. Roco
U.S. House of Representatives
District 2 (Rural Oahu and Neighbor Islands)
Rafael Del Castillo
District 5 (Wailuku, Waihee, Kahului, Paia, Lower Paia)
Shan S. Tsutsui*
District 6 (South and West Maui)
District 7 (Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe)
J. Kalani English*
Barbara J. Haliniak
District 8 (Wailuku, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Waikapu)
District 9 (Kahului, Wailuku, Puunene, Spreckelsville, Paia)
Gil S. Coloma Keith-Agaran*
District 10 (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei)
Edward H. Kaahui
Angus L. McKelvey*
Chayne M. Marten
District 11 (Makena, Wailea, Kihei)
Joseph Bertram III
Colin E. Hanlon
George R. Fontaine*
District 12 (Pukalani, Makawao, Olinda, Pulehu, Kula, Ulupalakua)
Kyle T. Yamashita*
District 13 (Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai, Molokai, Keanae, Wailua, Nahiku, Hana)
Simon S. Russell
Maui County Council
Robert (Bob) Carroll*
Joseph G. Blackburn II
Lisa R. Gapero
Michael (Mike) Victorino*
Alan (Al) Fukuyama
Don S. Guzman
Erin R. McLaughlin
Gladys Coelho Baisa*
Richard H. Pohle
Stacy Helm Crivello
Wilson (Manuwai) Peters
Robert K. Lindsey*
William (Willy) Meyers
Edwin L. P. Miranda
Keola Alalem Worthington
Liberta Hussey Albao
Jackie Kahookele Burke
Kanani Kagawa Fu
Sharon A. Pomroy
Ronson K. Sahut
D. Kaliko Santos
Billy Kealamaikahiki Swain
Leland K. (Radar) Yadao
Colette (Piipii) Machado*
No Island Residency (At-Large)
Lancelot Haili Lincoln
Kealii J. Makekau
Candidates for the upcoming Primary and General elections had until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to file their nomination papers. The General Election will be Nov. 6.
Residents have until July 12 to register to vote in the Primary Election. Absentee voting applications for the primary are due Aug. 4. The General Election deadline for registration is Oct. 8 with absentee applications for the election due Oct. 30.
For more information, see the website hawaii.gov/elections or call toll-free (800) 442-VOTE (8683).
Some state Senate district numbers may have changed due to redistricting that led to one state Senate seat moving from Oahu to the Big Island. Maui County district boundaries were not affected.
As for the nonpartisan council matchups, races that have two or less candidates automatically will advance to the General Election. Those with three or more candidates will enter the primary, with the top two vote-getters earning a spot in the General Election.
Voting for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will be held during the General Election.
To fill Pontanilla's vacant seat, three people have entered the race. They are businessman Alan Fukuyama, who previously has run unsuccessfully for the Maui County Council's West Maui seat; attorney Don Guzman and teacher Erin McLaughlin.
Another council race that has attracted multiple candidates is the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency seat. Incumbent Mike Victorino will be challenged by former fire captain and police officer Joe Blackburn II and Lisa Gapero.
The most crowded Maui County legislative race is in House District 11 which encompasses Makena, Wailea and Kihei. Four Democrats have lined up to hopefully challenge incumbent Republican George Fontaine.
Fontaine is currently the only Republican in Maui's legislative delegation.
The Democrats running are Joseph "Joe" Bertram III, who previously held the seat but lost it to Fontaine in 2010, Netra Halperin, Colin Hanlon and Kaniela Ing.
In the marquee state House race in Central Maui, Pontanilla said that if elected one of his priorities will be getting a new intermediate school for Central Maui. He said Maui Waena is "bursting at the seams." The new school would ease overcrowding at Maui Waena as well as Iao Intermediate in Wailuku.
Pontanilla said that there are advantages to having a background as a council member at the state Legislature. He pointed to Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who said at the state Legislature this year that it was easy for him to express his concerns about his island to Kauai legislators because they previously worked with him at the council level.
Pontanilla said that he could do the same and have the state and county working together.
He added that if elected, he will still have "an open door policy" of listening to all people's concerns.
And he agreed with Keith-Agaran, saying that his entering the race it gives "voters a choice."
Keith-Agaran said that if he returns to the Legislature the "main thing is to make sure that we continue to have a balanced budget that's responsible and addresses the important needs of the community."
"I think we need to move forward on education reforms and continue to make sure that we are working on protecting and maintaining our continuum of health care."
Keith-Agaran added that he knows his district has some of the larger schools in the county and has the only college and the only hospital on Maui.
"Those are always going to be priority," he said.
Keith-Agaran added that making things a priority does not only mean continuing to try and to get funds for projects and improvements. That also could involve restructuring the law to help the needs of the community.
For example, he said that with some changes in the law, Maui Memorial Medical Center can partner with Hale Makua to address longterm health care for residents.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.