Tuesday, June 3, was a busy day at the Maui County Clerk's office. It was the last day for candidates to file to run in the 2014 Primary Election. Political hopefuls galore streamed in and out of the office, trying to beat the 4:30 p.m. deadline. By 3:45 p.m. there were 12 names on the roster with more yet to come.
Cutting it close was Makawao resident Neldon "AZD" Mamuad, who was the last to file. The MAUIWatch chief waited until 4:21 p.m. to confirm his candidacy for Maui County mayor.
Also making an appearance on the final day was Kula resident Courtney Bruch. She took out papers on Monday and returned them on Tuesday. Aiming high, the anti-GMO activist is running for the Upcountry seat presently held by County Council Chair Gladys Baisa. Until Bruch's challenge, Baisa had been unopposed.
Tick tock. The deadline to file to run in the 2014 primary election was 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3.
With only minutes to go, Clerk Danny Mateo served as a witness for some last-minute paperwork. His deputy, Josiah Nishita, locked the office door promptly at 4:30 p.m.
This year marks the emergence of many new candidates, such as Mamuad and Bruch. Some, like Mamuad, have gained a following through their use of social media. Others, like Bruch, are the vocal forward wave of growing environmental concerns.
Hawai'i has the "open" primary system for federal and state offices; these are partisan races. On Primary Election Day, Saturday, Aug. 9, voters can select the ballot of one party and vote for the candidates of their choice in that party only.
At the county level, for mayor and council, all races are nonpartisan. All voters, no matter what their party preference, can vote in the primary for all county races. County Council candidates need to live in a specified geographic district, but all voters can vote for all nine council seats and a mayoral candidate.
Though most primary voters pull a Democratic ballot because that's where the action is, both Republicans and Libertarians have fielded candidates for many seats.
Also notable this year is the attempt by politicos who have either termed out or retired to regain an elected office. Among those seeking office (again) are former Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana, who is running for state house, and former County Council members Joe Pontanilla and Mike Molina. Both men have spent recent years as executive assistants to Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and are now seeking to regain their old seats.
At the state level, Maui Democrat Shan Tsutsui, who is the incumbent lieutenant governor, went from being a shoo-in for reelection to facing a tough race in the Democratic primary. Tsutsui was appointed to the post to fill a vacancy. He has never run in a statewide race before. His opponent, Clayton Hee, a high-profile O'ahu Democrat, took out papers late in the game to run against him and changed the odds considerably.
Likewise, Hawai'i's Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie faces conventional and unconventional challenges both within and without his party. Inside the party, a late bid by O'ahu Democrat David Ige appears to be gathering steam. Outside the party, perennial candidate Mufi Hanneman (who lost an earlier attempt to be a Democratic gubernatorial nominee) is mounting a backdoor effort running as an Independent. As Abercrombie struggles with low voter approval ratings, forecasters even see brightening prospects for Republican candidate James "Duke" Aiona.
Though many of the races are crowded, some candidates face no opposition, such as incumbent Maui County Council members Riki Hokama of Lana'i and Stacey Crivello from Molokai. State Sen. J. Kalani English is also running unopposed. Others, such as Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic incumbent seeking reelection to the Second Congressional House seat, are wildly popular in the polls.
Harder to call is the Democratic primary between Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and his challenger, fellow Democrat Colleen Hanabusa. Some polls show Schatz with a commanding margin, while others give him a much narrower lead with many voters still undecided.
Hawai'i has a notoriously low voter turnout, and even more so in an off-year primary. This time around, a relatively small number of voters could have a big impact on the outcome.
To find out a bit about Hawai'i's political history, see the "The One Minute History of Hawai'i's Politics" PDF link on this page.
To see who is running in the primary and the offices they seek, read "Who Can Vote in What Races," and "Who is Running in the Primary Election" here; www.mauiweekly.com/page/content.detail/id/532545/Who-Can-Vote-in-What-Races--Who-is-Running-in-the-Primary-Election.html?nav=13 and the "2014 Primary Election Candidates" PDF link here: www.mauiweekly.com/pdf/news/532545_1.pdf.
For voter information, see the "Maui County 2014 Primary Election Voting Information" sidebar on left side of this page. Maps for individual districts and precincts can be found online at hawaii.gov/elections/maps/2012.