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Repeat contenders eyeing runs for County Council seats

Candidates pull nomination papers for council, state Legislature posts

Eight candidates have pulled papers to run for the Maui County Council, including two challengers in a wide-open Lanai residency seat and repeat contenders in Kahului and East Maui.

Four incumbents also are signaling plans to defend their seats — Council Members Tamara Paltin (West Maui), Tasha Kama (Kahului), Mike Molina (Makawao-Haiku-Paia) and Yuki Lei Sugimura (Upcountry), according to candidate filing reports released Friday.

Lanai residents Matthew Mano and Alberta De Jetley are looking to run for the open seat being vacated by Council Member Riki Hokama, who is stepping down due to term limits. Gabe Johnson, who challenged Hokama in the 2018 election, also confirmed last month that he plans to campaign again, though he hadn’t pulled papers as of Friday.

Claire Carroll, who lost to Council Member Shane Sinenci in the East Maui race in 2018, also has pulled papers to run. Sinenci collected 23,654 votes, or 46.7 percent, to Carroll’s 19,467 votes, or 38.5 percent. Both had been campaigning to fill the seat vacated by Carroll’s father Bob, who retired in 2018.

Also looking to unseat an incumbent is Deb Kaiwi, who pulled papers for the Kahului seat. Kaiwi was eliminated in the 2018 primary after finishing third with 4,519 votes, or 13.3 percent, to Kama’s 12,712 votes, or 37.3 percent, and then-Mayor Alan Ara-kawa’s 11,790 votes, or 34.6 percent.

In the state Legislature, just one Maui candidate so far has indicated plans to run — Christy Kajiwara Gusman, a Wailuku resident, who has pulled papers for Rep. Troy Hashimoto’s District 8 seat, which covers Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku and Waikapu.

All state House of Representative seats are up for reelection this year; in the state Senate with staggered four-year terms, only certain districts are up for reelection. Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, who holds the District 5 seat of Wailuku, Waihee and Waikapu, is the only Maui lawmaker who must defend his Senate seat this year.

Seven candidates also have pulled papers to run for U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s seat in Congress. Gabbard has announced that she will not run again as she continues a long-shot campaign for president. The 2nd Congressional District seat she holds covers Maui, Hawaii island and Kauai counties, as well as rural and suburban areas of Oahu beyond Honolulu.

Of the seven candidates, three are Democrats — David Cornejo of Kailua, Oahu; Noelle Famera of Honolulu; and state Sen. Kai Kahele of Hilo. Kahele announced his candidacy a year ago and has since been vocally critical of Gabbard, including her recent decision to vote “present” on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Three other candidates are Republicans — Bart Gott-schalk of Ocean View, Hawaii island; Robert “Steve” Rous-seau of Kailua-Kona; and Taylor Smith of Honolulu. A fourth candidate, Michelle Tippens of Hilo, is registered as a Libertarian.

None of the congressional candidates so far are from Maui County.

Candidates were allowed to start pulling papers on Feb. 3; they have until June 2 to file.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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