Baker leads Amato by 89 votes for Senate seat
Yamashita holds on to slim lead over Lawrence with one precinct still out
Longtime state Sen. Roz Baker appears to have survived a late rally by challenger Terez Amato to retain her West and South Maui seat by 89 votes during Saturday’s Democratic primary race.
Baker garnered 3,253 (48.6 percent) votes to Amato’s 3,164 (47.3 percent) to defend her 6th Senate District seat (Makena, Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Lahaina, Kaanapali, Napili and Kapalua). She will advance to the general election and face Green Party candidate Melissah (Mish) Shishido, who captured just 28 votes Saturday.
“A win is a win,” Baker said. “I have brought significant resources back to Maui and done things my district has asked me to do. It would’ve been nice to have a larger margin, but quite frankly a win is a win. I’m happy to be going back to be doing the people’s business and continue working on the issues that are important to Maui.”
State Rep. Kyle Yamashita appeared to have narrowly defeated Tiare Lawrence to retain his 12th House District seat that includes Upcountry, Spreckelsville and parts of Kahului. Yamashita claimed 3,290 votes (50.7 percent), or 254 more votes than Lawrence with five of six precincts reporting.
Yamashita was cautious about celebrating late Saturday night after narrowly beating Lawrence in the 2016 Democratic primary.
“It’s similar, so we got to wait and see,” he said.
Yamashita jumped ahead in the first printout with nearly 2,000 votes to Lawrence’s 1,500. He commanded the same early lead in the last election and saw it dwindle to 350 votes by the end of the night.
Lawrence, who was banking on new voters and a higher voter turnout to pull off the upset, was still positive early Saturday night.
“It’s the first printout so it’s expected,” she said. “But I think a lot of people came out for early voting and at the polls in person, so I’m still very hopeful. I know a lot of people came out later in the last election and we definitely closed the gap as the printouts came out so I’m confident the community has my back so I’m staying positive.
“Win or lose I’m still going to be doing the community work I do for Maui. I’m just thinking positive and either way we’re going to celebrate tonight.”
If Yamashita wins, he will enter his 15th year at the state Capitol. He is in charge of managing capital improvement projects in the state on the powerful House Finance Committee and also serves on the Economic Development and Business and the Labor and Public Employment committees.
Baker expected her race to be close after defeating Amato by 486 votes in the 2014 primary. Baker held a lead of about 300 votes after the first two printout results Saturday night and captured her narrow victory with the third printout.
Baker believes the closer race may have been due to negative comments during the election.
“It got a little bit nasty; it got a little negative and I don’t go there,” she said. “I want to be positive and talk about the results I’ve gotten for Maui. Some of that negativity I’m sure added to those totals, but in the final analysis I was re-elected and mahalo to all the voters who stood with me.”
Amato could not be reached for comment.
Baker said she plans to continue working on getting Kihei high school and the Lahaina bypass completed, as well as advocate for other Maui issues. Baker has served in the state Legislature for 26 years and has represented West and South Maui since 2002.
“I have nothing but aloha for the folks who voted for Terez,” Baker said. “She gave it her best, and I think there’s more common ground than she or her significant other wanted to let on, but that’s OK. It’s an election fight and I’m certain she cares about the district as much as I do.
“I want to work with everyone in my district, and I don’t intend to shut anyone out.”
Woodson defeated political newcomer Kauanoe Batangan in a convincing 2,610 (59.9 percent) to 1,508 (34.6 percent) vote victory. Woodson also retained his seat outright after nonpartisan candidate Andrew Kayes secured just 27 votes — failing to secure 10 percent of the overall vote that would push the race to the general election.
“I just feel like ecstatic,” Woodson said.
Woodson, 41, will enter his sixth year representing the 9th House District that includes Kahului, Puunene, old Sand Hills and Maui Lani.
“I’m so grateful the community has given me another chance to serve,” he said. “I also feel like I’m on the right track for the most part, what the community wants me to focus on. I want to even step out of my comfort zone more so I can do more for the community and more for Maui and work with my colleagues to do that.
“I just feel thankful and grateful.”
Batangan, 28, served as an aide to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard before seeking his first bid for office. The Stanford graduate, with masters degrees from Columbia University and University of Tokyo, most recently served as a long-term substitute teacher at Kamehameha Schools Maui.
“I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” Batangan said via email. “It was born in the kitchens and living rooms and garages of family and friends right here on Maui. And it was supported by people who believe in the sense of common purpose that inspired me to run. While we came up short in the polls today, we made a meaningful difference in this election and in our public discourse. For that, I am extremely proud of our efforts and thankful for the love and support that we received from this community.”
Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English retained his seat in dominant fashion by garnering 7,066 (61.4 percent) votes with 14 of 15 precincts reported. He has served the 7th Senate District of Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe since 2000.
English serves as vice chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and sits on committees for Hawaiian Affairs; Transportation and Energy; and Ways and Means.
DeCoite defeated challenger John-Bull English with 2,789 (55.6 percent) votes to 1,850 (36.9 percent) votes to win the Democratic primary for the 13th House District seat that includes Haiku, Hana, Kaupo, Kipahulu, Nahiku, Paia, Lanai and Molokai. DeCoite will face Green Party candidate Nick Nikhilananda, who had just 24 votes, in the general election.
DeCoite serves as vice chairwoman of the House Agriculture; and Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs committees. She also sits on the Finance and Public Safety committees.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.