Hawai'i State News

Kaua‘i nominees pitch themselves for Tokioka’s empty Hawai‘i House seat

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This story was updated at 10:48 a.m. Friday, Jan. 20

Three political and community leaders on Kauaʻi have been nominated to fill a Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives seat recently vacated by former Rep. James “Jimmy” Tokioka, who was tapped by new Gov. Josh Green to be the state’s Deputy Director of Airports.

The Democratic Party of Kaua‘i has since been tasked with developing a short list of replacement candidates for the governor’s perusal. The vacancy is the State House District 16 seat, representing portions of Kaua‘i’s East Side and South Shore.

The list of District 16 nominees has not yet been officially announced. But on Thursday, Honolulu-based news outlet Civil Beat reported Kauaʻi County Councilmember Luke Evslin, former Kaua‘i County Councilmember Mason Chock and local nonprofit director Nikki Cristobal (who penned a recent state report on violence against Native Hawaiian women and children) are in the running.

Evslin, Cristobal, and Chock have since confirmed their nomination to Kaua‘i Now.

  • Nikki Cristobal, a reported nominee to the House seat vacated by Jimmy Tokioka. Photo Courtesy: Kamāwaelualani Corp.
  • Former Kaua‘i County Councilmember Mason Chock. Photo Courtesy: County of Kauaʻi
  • Līhuʻe resident Luke Evslin has served as a Kaua‘i County Councilmember since 2018. Photo Courtesy: County of Kaua‘i
  • James u0022Jimmyu0022 Tokioka represented House District 16 (Wailuā, Hanamā‘ulu, Kapaia, Līhu‘e, Puhi and a portion of ‘Ōma‘o) until recently, when newly-elected Gov. Josh Green named Tokioka Deputy Director for Airports. Photo Courtesy: Hawai‘i State Legislature
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“I recognize I am the youngest, least experienced person who was nominated. I also respect my fellow nominees and the experience they bring to the job they would do in the Legislature,” said Cristobal, who holds a doctorate in education and is leader of Kamāwaelualani, a nonprofit dedicated “to educate about Kauaʻi’s Kanaka ‘Ōiwi (Native Hawaiian) and place-based culture through public-arts and experiential learning,” according to its website.

“I think, however, there needs to be more women in our legislature. There needs to be more kanaka, more filipino, more Kaua‘i-rooted wāhine,” Cristobal continued. “Only 35% of our Hawaii State Legislature are women. Reports like this [“Holoi ā nalo Wāhine ‘Ōiwi,” the Missing and Murdered Native Hawaiian Women and Girls Task Force report] generate my passion to serve in the legislature and help be a champion for policies that really protect our women and girls. We know our voices are silenced at every corner and so we need more of us making those power moves.”

Evslin wrote a lengthy Facebook post detailing his state-level policy goals, when he announced he would seek a nomination to Tokioka’s House seat earlier this month.

The councilmember said his objectives in the State Legislature would be similar to those he’s already pursuing on the county level. Most – including increasing opportunities for multifamily housing; reducing barriers and regulatory delays for housing construction; and using taxation policy to reduce overseas speculation in the housing market – are built around affordable housing, a signature cause of Evslin’s.

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“I firmly believe that effective policy can help solve some of the biggest collective challenges we face in Hawai’i,” Evslin wrote on Facebook. “While county policy can be hugely impactful, we can accomplish much more at the State Legislature.”

Chock currently sits on the board of the nonprofit Hanalei Initiative and is part of I Ola Wailuanui, a Kaua‘i community group opposed to the construction of a new hotel on the site of the old Coco Palms resort in Wailuā. He was traveling on the mainland when news broke of his nomination to Tokioka’s seat.

“If chosen, I intend to serve District 16 and Kaua‘i to the best of my ability,” he texted Kaua‘i Now while in transit. “I hope to bring my leadership development facilitation background, experience in government (12 years as a firefighter and nine as a councilmember) and local/statewide relationships to take on the most pressing issues facing our people and our ʻāina.”

The person appointed by Gov. Green to Tokioka’s seat will join other Kaua‘i House Representatives Nadine Nakamura (North Shore and portions of the East Side) and Dee Morikawa (Ni‘ihau, West Side and portions of South Shore). Nakamura and Morikawa serve as House Majority Leader and House Majority Floor Leader, respectively.

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Sen. Ron Kouchi of Kaua‘i serves as president of the Hawai‘i State Senate.

Editor’s note: This story has been modified to include additional information.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."

Scott can be reached at [email protected].
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