Five candidates are trying to unseat Mayor Alan Arakawa, a Hail Mary proposition that even Maui's most established politicians decided to take a pass on this year.
So perhaps it makes sense that the mayor's opponents don't have political careers to lose. None has been elected to public office, and only a few have even run campaigns before.
County lifeguard Tamara Paltin, 36, of Napili said it's "no secret" that her campaign for mayor is her first attempt at winning public office. But she said she's built up a network of grass-roots supporters who share her overall vision for Maui County and see her as an alternative to the incumbent mayor.
"Win or lose, if people become engaged and empowered with the process, then we're all winners," said Paltin, president of the Save Honolua Coalition, a force behind the state's efforts to purchase Lipoa Point on the west side, since 2009.
Striving to make a difference doesn't end on Election Day, she said.
"Why not become a part of making it better?" she asked. Then, people can say: "I did that. I had a part in making Maui County a better place to live and work and raise our kids."
* Editor's note: This story is a continuation of Maui News coverage of contested election races for state and county political offices. The primary election is Saturday. Winners advance to the Nov. 4 general election.
On the proposed moratorium on genetically modified crops, Paltin said that she believes the experimental, open-air testing of such crops "involves huge amounts of poisonous chemicals and mixtures."
If biotechnology companies want to experiment with GMO crops, then "they should do it in their hometown," she said.
A broader issue, she said, is to stop forcing island residents to choose between jobs and the environment, she said.
Paltin said she advocates a "community-based economic model" that looks at the needs of the community for job creation. "By addressing those needs, it's not so much about being rich as it is about making a living in the place you want to live," she said.
Kihei businesswoman Alana Kay, 54, who ran unsuccessfully for the Maui County Council South Maui residency seat two years ago, said she also is offering voters an alternative.
"I am clear-minded, healthy, energetic and open-minded," she said. "People in all walks of life here are envisioning a future with food and energy independence, clean air and water, as well as an economic climate that supports even the smallest of businesses and the simplest of lifestyles," she said.
Kay said she believes the proposed GMO moratorium is dividing Maui County's community, and her campaign is about finding ways for people to work together to solve problems.
GMO crops need to be studied as soon as possible by "unbiased entities," she said. "We cannot delay on this. Jobs are in jeopardy, especially on Molokai. I have a strong opinion that the pesticide use involved in GMO crop production is highly poisonous and enters our lives via water and fugitive dust."
Orion "Ori" Kopelman, 52, of Kahului, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2010, has a vision of Maui County as "Mauitopia," or "a real paradise."
Kopelman said that he believes the county should be "run like a business" and "promote individuals earning their living by doing what they love to do and thereby serving the community and the world."
Kopelman said he'd encourage home-based businesses as a way to help raise children and to put an end to crime "so we can all feel safe and allow our creativity to blossom." He also wants to stop GMOs until they can be proved safe.
Last month, Arakawa told a Maui Chamber of Commerce gathering that he, personally, doesn't believe GMOs are harmful. "All the people that are knowledgeable in this field that I respect, I know, there seems to be a preponderance of evidence that there is no evidence of anything wrong with using GMOs," he said.
Arakawa, 62, of Kahului is running on his record in his second term as mayor.
"We have accomplished much these past 3-1/2 years, and there is still much more to be done," he said. "Voters should re-elect me because our team has the experience to get the job done. Whether it's fixing a bridge, balancing the budget or servicing the public, we have the knowledge and the experience to follow through and accomplish our goals for the community."
The mayor's highlights include: paving and preserving more than 100 lane miles of roadway; installing renewable energy in 20 facilities totaling 2.2 megawatts of clean, renewable power, with the added benefit of stabilizing our energy costs; contracting to install photovoltaic systems in 18 more county facilities, which will bring the county's total renewable energy output to 4.5 megawatts; saving taxpayers more than $4 million in interest costs on long-term debts; and purchasing 209 acres to create a new Central Maui regional park to meet the community's recreational needs.
Arakawa said his vision for the county is to "create a better place for us, our children and their children.
"Everything we do has to be done with the future in mind. For example, if we have an opportunity to rebuild rather than repave a road, we do it, so that it lasts for 20 years instead of 10. That's why we buy open space so that we can preserve it, so that it is free from development and can be enjoyed by the community for years to come," he said.
The mayor's endorsements include the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142; the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters; the Hawaii Masons Union Locals 1 and 630; the Laborers International Union of North America Local 368; the Operating Engineers, Local Union No. 3; the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association; the Plumbers and Fitters Local 675; the United Public Workers AFSCME Local 646; and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1186.
This year's election for the next Maui County mayor veered away from the usual script of candidates debating issues, sign-waving and canvassing neighborhoods.
The departure from campaigns as usual began soon after candidates filed in June. Challenges were filed with the Office of the County Clerk to the mayoral candidacies of Nelson Waikiki Jr. and MAUIWatch Facebook founder Neldon Mamuad. The challenge of Waikiki's mayoral candidacy was found not to have merit by County Clerk Danny Mateo, however Mateo did find merit in the challenge against Mamuad, and 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill disqualified him as a candidate because he didn't submit his financial disclosure paperwork on time.
The judge's June 25 decision came after state election officials sent ballots to the printer for Saturday's primary election. So, Mamuad's name will be on the ballot, but votes for him won't count.
Meanwhile, Waikiki is being held in lieu of $100,000 cash bail at Maui Community Correctional Center for failing to comply with the conditions of his release in a criminal case.
Waikiki is awaiting sentencing Dec. 10 for four felony securities fraud convictions. He has admitted his involvement in an investment scheme in which nearly two dozen people paid more than $100,000 to Waikiki, who wasn't a registered securities broker.
He was jailed for more than nine months following his arrest last year. After changing his plea, he was released in April. Then he was taken into custody again July 15 after a candidate forum at Seabury Hall in Olinda.
Before sentencing, Waikiki is required to pay $60,000 in restitution or face a 10-year prison term.
Another mayoral candidate to get the attention of police recently was Beau Hawkes, 34, of Makawao.
In a July 23 incident captured on cellphone videos and posted on Facebook (www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfm_kq9meq8), an officer chased Hawkes down Wells Street toward Hoapili Hale, the state Judiciary building. Hawkes turned to run back up the street when the officer shot him with a Taser, and he fell flat on his face.
Hawkes was charged with resisting arrest and lack of obedience to a police officer's direction. He was released after posting $300 bail. Hawkes later told The Maui News that his arrest was "completely wrong" and an example of what is "not pono."
In an "exclusive" interview posted July 27 on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRBC1AEt29M&app=desktop), Hawkes opens and ends a nearly 55-minute telephone interview with Honolulu Star-Advertiser writer Timothy Hurley with a double shaka. He explains the events leading up to and following the police chase. In the interview, he says that under the Declaration of Independence he has the right not to have a license plate on his vehicle, not to carry identification and not to pay taxes.
"The whole series of events is divinely inspired," he says. "You couldn't write this stuff. The Maui mayor running down the street getting tased. It's part of something that's special, and I call that the reLOVElution." He ties that to the peace movement of the 1960s and '70s.
If re-elected to a third, four-year term, Arakawa could make history as Maui County's longest-serving mayor. So far, that distinction is held by the late former Mayor Hannibal Tavares, who served more than 11 years from October 1979 (after winning a special election) to Jan. 2, 1991.
Not since re-electing Linda Lingle in 1994 have voters returned a Maui County mayor to office. James "Kimo" Apana lost to Arakawa in 2002. Arakawa lost to Charmaine Tavares, Hannibal Tavares' daughter, in 2006. And Tavares lost to Arakawa in 2010.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.