ANALYSIS: New Maps Fodder for Fans of Politics
The new political landscape created by the state Reapportionment Commission presents a myriad of scenarios on the Big Island.
The reshuffling of districts gives the Big Island a fourth Senate District – to be known as District 2 – that has been carved out of the existing Senate District 2. It also makes a variety of changes to existing House districts, meaning some representatives may be running in a different district and creating opportunities for some members of the House to move over to the Senate side.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shifting,” said state Rep. Clift Tsuji.
The most obvious change is that two current House members, Mark Nakashima and Jerry Chang, are now in the same district (see related article: New District Maps Give Big Island 4th Senator). Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.
However, Chang’s residency in upper Hilo means he could run to represent the newly created Senate District 1, which consists of the Hilo area taken out of the old District 2. However, that means he probably would have to take on Sen. Gil Kahele, the current District 2 incumbent who lives in Hilo.
Kahele said Wednesday that he hasn’t decided whether he will run for the new District 1 seat but is leaning toward it, saying he has been encouraged to seek another term.
“I’ll make a decision after talking with my supporters,” he said.
Kahele was appointed to his seat by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in early 2011 to replace Russell Kokubun, who was named by Abercrombie to be head of the state Department of Agriculture.
The brand-new Senate District 2, which consists of Puna and a small part of Ka‘u, has no incumbent but does include the Volcano home of House District 5 Rep. Bob Herkes.
Herkes, who previously served in the Senate and has done two stints in the House for a total of 16 years – representing areas from North Kona to Ka‘u to lower Puna, following changes made by previous reapportionment commissions – told Big Island Now that he will be a candidate for the Senate.
“I’m going to run for the new Senate seat,” he said Wednesday. “I have represented that district before and know it well.”
That will leave no incumbent residing in the new House District 3. While that district’s lines have been changed to exclude most of Hilo, it continues to include all of upper Puna and now extends nearly all the way to Naalehu in Ka‘u.
House District 3 is currently represented by Tsuji, a resident of the Waiakea Uka section of Hilo who now finds himself in House District 2, which is presently represented by Chang.
Tsuji said he plans to run again for a House seat and not move into the new Senate District 2, which contains much of the area he currently represents.
“I’ve been asked to run for the Senate but that is not on my immediate radar scope,” he said Wednesday.
Changes to the existing Senate District 3 could mean that the home of Sen. Josh Green, the current senator for that district, has been placed in Senate District 4, where Sen. Malama Solomon resides. In addition to parts of North Kona, the commission removed all of North and South Kohala from District 3, adding it to District 4 which includes most of the area Solomon currently represents and her residence.
The new northern boundary for District 3 is Kaiminani Drive in the Kalaoa area of Kailua. Green lives in Kailua but neither he nor his staff was available to find out exactly where in the town he resides.