Seasoned politicians face off in primary

Published On: Aug 03 2012 12:00:00 AM HST   Updated On: Aug 03 2012 04:47:07 PM HST

Because of reapportionment, two veteran Hawaii lawmakers may face the election battle of their careers.

Residents of Moiliili and Makiki face a tough choice in the Primary Election between Democratic Senators Brian Taniguchi and Carol Fukunaga.

Between them, they share more than half a century of government service.

Fukunaga is a product of the public schools and hails from the first graduating class of the University of Hawaii law school.

Taniguchi, too, is a lawyer born and raised in Manoa where his roots run deep.  He admits their politics are similar, and what may sway voters is their personal style.

Fukunaga think it is all about trust, and as a strong champion of women's issues, she'd like to think voters will give her the nod.

"We work harder.  We have to.  In law or male-dominated professions, you have to work twice as hard, three times as hard just to show you can do it," said Fukunaga.  "I think in my experience, if people think they can trust you they will count on you to do a good job."

Fukunaga stands on a platform advancing high tech industries like broadband.  She is motivated and fulfilled by watching young constituents find their way, and holds out her support and influence to gain funding for high school science and math and digital media programs.

Taniguchi points to what he has done for his district and beyond -- the Manoa community center, gym and library are among the projects on the list.  He is proud of the part he has played marshaling diverse viewpoints in the community and moving them toward common ground.

Looking back over his 32 years in the state House and Senate, Taniguchi says it is the Superferry controversy and community outreach  on four islands, over three days, that stands out in his mind.

"It was one of the moments in my career where we were able to, based on how we handled the situation, we were able to diffuse a real tense situation," said Taniguchi.  "We listened.  I think we listened sincerely, and I think they appreciated that."

Looking ahead, with transit development and higher high-rises planned for neighboring Kakaako, Taniguchi says he is generally not for increasing densities in the urban core.

"The communities are already difficult places to live, parking is a problem, noise is a problem," said Taniguchi.  "We can't continue to do these kinds of high density stuff."

Fukunaga, a condo dweller, sees it this way:  "The area right above Kakaako is already stressed with narrow streets, traffic congestion, almost no parks.  So, when I look at the increased density in the urban core, then we want to see some community benefits in the form of enhanced school and parks facilities, or better partnerships."

These two seasoned politicians are now at an elections crossroad.


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