New District Maps Give Big Island 4th Senator
The Big Island will get a fourth seat in the state Senate under new political maps released by the state Reapportionment Commission late Tuesday.
While the number of Big Island House districts is unchanged, the new map places two incumbents in the same district. It extends the current District 1 into upper Hilo which means current House members Jerry Chang and Mark Nakashima could face off in the upcoming elections. Chang currently represents District 2, while Nakashima is the incumbent in District 1.
The new maps are still drafts and won’t be finalized by the commission until after public meetings are held. This is the second set of maps issued by the commission. New ones were required after the Hawaii Supreme Court rejected those issued last year.
Creating a new Senate district on the Big Island meant shrinking the existing three.
The new Big Island Senate district, which has been named District 2, consists of Puna, Volcano and a small portion of Ka‘u including Pahala. It was created mostly out of the existing Senate District 2 by removing the areas of Hilo and the portion of Ka‘u where Naalehu and Waiohinu are located (see related article: ANALYSIS: New Maps Fodder for Fans of Politics). The Hilo portion is now District 1, and is where District 2 incumbent Sen. Gil Kahele lives.
“I’m happy that the Reapportionment Commission has kept Hilo intact,” Kahele said Wednesday. “That was a concern expressed at public hearings.”
The current Senate District 3, which Sen. Josh Green represents, has been reduced by removing the Naalehu area and both North and South Kohala, as well as a portion of North Kona. That means a much-expanded area for the new Senate District 4, which includes most of the area of the current District 1 and also the residence of its incumbent, Sen. Malama Solomon.
Chang and Nakashima are among five pairs of incumbents statewide who might face off in the Aug. 11 primary. The other four are located on Oahu.
The new maps became necessary when the Hawaii Supreme Court agreed in a Jan. 4 ruling with four Big Island residents who had filed a lawsuit arguing that the earlier maps were improper because they factored in non-permanent residents of the state such as military personnel and nonresident students. The result was that the Big Island was short-changed by one senator, the lawsuit said.
Stan Roehrig, a Hilo attorney and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said Wednesday that he would reserve most of his comments until after the Reapportionment Commission has voted to make the latest maps official.
“After the commission votes and it’s final we will be happy that it got accomplished,” Roehrig said.
The commission will hold public hearings on the new maps at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 in the County Council chambers in Hilo and the following day in Honolulu.
Candidates are not being allowed to file for any state House or Senate seat until the commission makes its final vote.