Chang Won’t Seek Re-election to State House

June 1, 2012, 6:08 PM HST (Updated June 2, 2012, 9:46 AM)
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Rep. Jerry Chang, the Big Island’s longest-serving state legislator, today announced that he will not seek re-election.

Chang, a Democrat who has served 12 consecutive terms in District 2, would have faced Rep. Mark Nakashima in the newly drawn District 1 under new political maps established in March by the state Reapportionment Commission.

Nakashima is the two-term incumbent in District 1, which includes the Hamakua area. Chang’s home was placed into that district when the commission moved its boundary into upper Hilo.

The new political maps were finalized when they were approved by a panel of federal judges on May 22. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit challenging the commission’s approach that excluded nonresident members of the military and students who pay nonresident tuition.

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“I want to thank the voters for their support and for the opportunity to represent them over the past 24 years,” Chang said in a statement issued by the House of Representatives. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of the Big Island and the State of Hawaii. I have always been humbled by their trust in me to be their voice at the Legislature.”

Chang’s legislative office was closed today and he could not be reached for further comment.

Chang and Nakashima were among six pairs of House members statewide who were placed in the same district by the reapportionment action.

According to the statement, Chang will retire at the end of the current session. However, it said that Chang has not ruled out a future candidacy.

“It’s always a difficult decision to run against another incumbent, especially a friend with whom I have worked during the past four years,” Chang said in the statement. “It was a decision I did not take lightly. I will continue to serve the community that I love in other ways. Perhaps that will include running again for public office in the future.”

Nakashima told Big Island Now that he was not surprised by the announcement because he and Chang have discussed the issue.

“From the first maps we’ve had ongoing discussions on what we might do in the various scenarios,” Nakashima said. “Both of us had reservations about running against each other.”

According to the state elections office, Noralyn Pajimola is the only candidate who so far has filed to challenge Nakashima’s re-election bid. She is listed on her Facebook page as manager of a Hilo travel agency.

The filing deadline is Tuesday.

Rep. Clifton Tsuji, the current incumbent in House District 3 whose home is now located in District 2, has filed for that seat. He is currently unopposed.

Chang, a longtime supporter of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, served as the chairman of the House Committee on Water, Land and Ocean Resources.

 

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