EDITOR'S NOTE - This is the second in a series of stories covering contested legislative and County Council seats leading up to Saturday's primary election.
Democratic challengers for the 10th House District seat, Edward Kaahui and Angus McKelvey, agree that West Maui's main thoroughfare, Honoapiilani Highway, is in dire need of improvement.
Edward Kaahui (D)
But that's where their similarities end.
McKelvey, the incumbent, who has held the House seat representing West Maui, Maalaea and north Kihei for the last six years, points to the already ongoing work on the highway and the emergency proclamation issued by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in June that is expediting repair work on the eroded highway near Launiupoko where a portion of the highway fell into the ocean a couple of months ago.
The 44-year-old Lahaina resident said that he and other Maui legislators have been able to secure necessary funding for short-term as well as long-term work on Honoapiilani Highway as well as for portions of the Lahaina bypass.
McKelvey said that six years ago, when he first ran for office, the bypass was "dead" and not proceeding forward but it has since been revived and construction is ongoing. He said he will continue the funding push for these infrastructure projects.
For Kaahui, a political newcomer, he said that the ongoing work on Honoapiilani Highway is "just a Band-Aid approach; just stop-gap approach."
"It's going to drop back into the ocean," the 71-year-old Lahaina resident said.
Kaahui wants to look long term and move the highway farther mauka of the surf spots that dot Honoapiilani Highway from the pali into Lahaina.
He added that by moving the highway now, it would give people better and safer access to the parks and beach areas, which are now very close to the highway. He said this will also lead to expanding the parks, where he would like to see restrooms erected.
Kaahui said to achieve this goal, he would look for state, federal and county funding and even tap large-land developers in the area to help with funding and moving the highway.
Kaahui and McKelvey will face off Saturday. The winner will run against Republican Chayne M. Marten in the November election.
Kaahui, who retired from the county Department of Parks and Recreation nine years ago and also worked as a Maui County police officer as well as in the Planning Department, said that even though it has been hard work being a first-time candidate, he is enjoying it.
The Vietnam veteran said that he chose to run because he was "always complaining and grumbling" to his friends and family about why things were not getting done.
His supporters told him that if he knew how to get it done right, he should do it himself.
Although McKelvey said that he has developed relationships with the other Maui legislators as well as those from across the state during his time in office, Kaahui said that he, too, has "the ability to work with people."
"By growing up and living in Hawaii I have friends from all the islands."
Kaahui said that while a student at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus on Oahu, he and other students from the Neighbor Islands as well as rural Oahu banded together, as they understood one another more than the "city boys."
"We had to gang up, so we can get our points across," Kaahui said.
While attending Maui Community College in the 1970s, Kaahui said, he served as student body president.
McKelvey said that as an incumbent with seniority, he's better positioned to make changes and push legislation through, as most of his colleagues will be returning to office. Some of those colleagues began their careers at the same time McKelvey did.
He said that he has established relationships with others and they help one another's communities.
Some of the high-profile actions McKelvey participated in during the last legislative session involved urging the state administration to restore the missing boating and swimming safety buoys off West Maui beaches after a Lahaina diver was killed by a boat in waters off of Hanakaoo Beach Park in December.
McKelvey said he and state Sen. Roz Baker, who represents South and West Maui, worked together to urge the administration to hurry up and get the buoys restored before another accident occurs.
He said that Maui legislators in the past had also pushed for the buoys to be restored, and were told by Department of Land and Natural Resources officials in the Linda Lingle administration that the buoys were on their way. But in the transition of administrations, the project apparently fell to the wayside.
McKelvey acknowledged that the buoys should not give people a false sense of security as the fatal accident could have occurred even if the buoys had been in place.
But he added that legislators have also set in place long-term measures to keep people safe.
Earlier this year, Abercrombie signed into law a House bill sponsored by McKelvey requiring the state DLNR to establish a five-member advisory committee made up of various ocean enthusiasts in the community that will advise the department on its so-called West Maui Ocean Recreation Management Area.
But for Kaahui, the actions to restore the buoys is "to little too late."
Kaahui proposes that zones be established for specific ocean uses and a safety map showing particular ocean uses in different areas be established and given to visitors.
He thinks that the commercial users should be shifted more toward the beaches fronting the Kaanapali hotels.
Kaahui added that the DLNR should be sure that the advisory committee is filled with all the different types of ocean users - from fishermen to ocean recreation enthusiasts.
Both men also want to do more for schools in West Maui.
McKelvey said that he and Baker teamed up to get funding for "modular buildings" to be installed starting this school year at Lahaina Intermediate and Princess Nahienaena Elementary schools to assist the overburdened campuses.
McKelvey said that he is also pushing ahead to see if the state - or even private developers - will be ready to build a new elementary school in West Maui to handle its population growth.
Kaahui said he would like to see students from kindergarten all the way up to the 8th grade receive free lunch and breakfast at school.
"I don't think you can think if you don't have food in your stomach. I know what it is to go to school and (feel) hungry," he said, noting he was one of nine children, which made it hard for his parents.
But Kaahui understands that giving free meals comes at a cost.
"How are we going to do that?" he asked out loud. "We're going to have to figure out something."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.
House District 10
(West Maui, Maalaea and north Kihei)
Edward Kaahui (D)
Born: Oct. 27, 1940; Puunene
Military: Marine Corps, Vietnam veteran
Education: Associate of Arts degree, University of Hawaii, 1972
Community involvement: Hawaiian Civic Club; Kihei Community Association; Hawaiian Homes Association; Lahaina
Lions Club; Napili Canoe Club
Family: Married, 11 children
* * *
Angus L. McKelvey (D)*
Born: March 9, 1968; Honolulu
Education: Bachelor's degree, Whittier College, 1991
Elected offices held: State House
of Representatives, 2006 to present
Community involvement: Volunteer, LahainaTown Action Committee; former member, Lahaina Rotary Club; Lahaina Restoration