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Thank you for voting for children and public education. Watch Wil Okabe’s Video Mahalo Message on VIMEO

November 5, 2014

Aloha Colleagues,
On behalf of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, I would like to extend a big mahalo to all of you for getting out the vote. This year’s election was an especially important one to public school teachers and the students they teach.
Thanks to you, we were successful in electing candidates committed and dedicated to supporting public school education, our teachers and students, technology and innovation for Hawaii’s future. Congratulations to our new Governor, David Ige, Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui and U.S. Representatives Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard, and Senator Brian Schatz.
We are also pleased that the majority voted “no” on the constitutional amendment that would allow the use of public funds for private preschools. The HSTA is an advocate for early childhood education and believes in providing fair and equal access to quality public education for all keiki throughout the state.
The results of this election reflected the power and influence of our teachers and we want to thank all of you again for your hard work and dedication. 
HSTA continues to work towards supporting our members so that you can provide the best education and learning opportunities for our students.
Mahalo for all that you do.
Wil Okabe

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As educators, we know best what works for our students, classrooms, and schools.  That’s why we need to elect candidates who will support policies and initiatives that help our students, schools, and communities move forward.

Every education decision is a political decision.  Politicians make decisions on policies and funding that impact our students.

The Governor
*Can change education polices and programs and create new ones.
*May veto bills, or sign them into law
*Makes appointments to boards and commissions including the Board of Education and the Labor Board.

Hawaii’s State Legislators write and vote on laws affecting public schools, from funding to standardize testing to educators’ rights to organize and advocate for students.

U.S. Congress
It is essential that education voters elect representatives who can work across party lines, listen to educators, make public education a priority, and develop real solutions that support students.  These are the folks who:
*Set national standards for public schools
*Determine education spending through federal programs
*Serve on committees that draft and negotiate legislations, sponsor bills and cast votes, resulting in laws that can change the face of public schools.  Think No Child Left Behind.

Your vote is your voice.

Thank you for standing up for public schools, equal and fair opportunities for our children, and Hawaii’s future.



Ige to become Hawaii’s next governor

By Derrick DePledge
POSTED: 04:27 p.m. HST, Nov 04, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 12:53 a.m. HST, Nov 05, 2014

State Sen. David Ige, riding disenchantment with Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the primary and party loyalty among Democrats in the general election, was elected Hawaii’s governor on Tuesday.

The unassuming electrical engineer from Pearl City claimed Washington Place by overpowering former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, the Republican, 49 percent to 37 percent with much of the vote counted. Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party candidate, was at 12 percent.

Ige, 57, will be sworn in as Hawaii’s eighth governor in December. Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui will be his lieutenant governor.

“There are a few more votes to be counted, but this is the first election since the passing of Sen. (Daniel) Inouye,” Ige told Democrats at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. “And, really, this is about the party of the future.”

With just shy of a majority, the state senator still has to reassure voters who are unfamiliar with him that he has chief executive leadership ability. But the more voters learned about him during the campaign, the more they were comfortable.

“He was able to get this vote because he is a very good person. Everybody began to feel that he would become such a good governor,” said former Gov. George Ariyoshi, who appointed Ige to fill a vacant state House seat in 1985. “He’s a very honest person and that’s what I think came across.”

“It’s very good for Hawaii because he’s a good person and he has ideas. An election is not about individuals. It’s about what the person believes the person can do and I feel very strongly that he’s going to become a very good governor.”

Aiona, speaking to Republicans at Dole Cannery’s Pomaikai Ballrooms, conceded and thanked his rivals. He lamented the low voter turnout, especially among young people, and urged his supporters to stand by their principles and values.

“We believe in a two-party system. We believe in balance,” he said. “Trust, respect and balance is not just mere rhetoric. It’s not a pure slogan. It’s something that we believe in. And that’s why you’re all here today.

“And that’s something that this campaign can be very proud of, very, very proud of. And so, you know, we will forge ahead.”

Joyce Shimabukuro, who is studying accounting at the University of Hawaii, favors abortion rights and said she was influenced by Aiona’s stand against abortion. “That was one of my main concerns,” she said.

Shimabukuro said she liked Ige’s personality, which, for many, is a departure from the gloss of typical politicians.

Charles Kaneshiro, a meat cutter who lives in Kona, said he believes Ige and other Democrats are interested in protecting the middle class on issues such as wages and health care. “I trust the Democrats more than the Republicans,” he said.

Megan Hanlin, a contractor who lives in Ewa Beach, backed Aiona. “He most closely represents the values that I follow and believe in, especially when it comes to faith-based values,” she said.

Ige, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was unknown to many voters when he announced last year that he would challenge Abercrombie. The state senator initially struggled to raise money or attract visible support from prominent interest groups other than the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

But Ige’s steady, earnest demeanor and stew-and-rice campaign style won over voters and was a perfect contrast to the volatile Abercrombie, who spent $5.5 million only to become the first governor in state history to lose in a primary.

“Improbable isn’t the word for it,” Dan Boylan, a MidWeek columnist and former history professor at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, said of Ige’s rise. “Who would have thunk it?”

After the historic primary, the general election was much more subdued, and Ige benefitted from the state’s long Democratic tradition. With Ige leading in public-opinion polls, money and political support from labor, business and environmental interests shifted toward the Democrat. He also received strong backing from Japanese-Americans, seniors and union households, a reliable coalition for Democrats since statehood.

Ariyoshi was Hawaii’s first Japanese-American governor, but Ige is the first Okinawan, a point of ethnic pride for the state’s large and vibrant Okinawan community.

“He’s got a `D’ in back of his name,” Boylan said, adding that “you never bet against a Democrat in Hawaii. You’re a stupid man if you do.”

Abercrombie showed up at the Democrats’ victory celebration at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Tuesday evening to offer his congratulations. Asked what he would do when he is out of office, the governor said “right now I’m walking my dog, maybe later I’ll do some writing.”

Ige acknowledges he is not a polished public speaker and may not have some of the natural political skills of previous governors. But he is genuine, friends and lawmakers who have worked with him say, and straightforward when it comes to problem solving.

“He’s a kind of no-nonsense problem-solver,” said state Sen. Les Ihara, Jr. (D, Moiliili-Kaimuki-Palolo), who was part of Ige’s “Chess Club” faction in the Senate.

Ige, Ihara says, “communicates through his actions. So his biggest strength is he walks the talk.”

Ige and Hannemann were the first major candidates for governor to voluntarily agree to the state’s $1.5 million campaign spending limit for matching funds since Linda Lingle, a Republican, in 1998.

Ige raised $2.2 million for the primary and general election. Aiona raised $1.4 million, while Hannemann brought in about $348,600.

While the candidates mostly focused on positive themes, such as empowering school principals and teachers, improving public hospitals, and lowering the state’s high cost of living, mainland super PACs injected a harsher tone through millions of dollars worth of negative advertising.

The American Comeback Committee, a super PAC aligned with the Republican Governors Association, devoted $2.2 million to Hawaii on behalf of Aiona. The group criticized Ige on taxes and the state’s troubled health insurance exchange.

Hawaii Forward, a super PAC tied to the Democratic Governors Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, directed $1.8 million to the islands. The group faulted Aiona for teacher furloughs and his opposition to abortion rights.

The NEA Advocacy Fund, a super PAC of the National Education Association, spent more than $299,200 on ads attacking Aiona on teacher furloughs when he was lieutenant governor during the Lingle administration.

Aiona, who lost badly to Abercrombie in 2010, was encouraged when he led both Ige and Abercrombie in polls taken before the primary. Elwin Ahu, a former judge and a senior pastor at New Hope Metro, Aiona’s running mate, also had the potential to energize religious conservatives who were upset with the special session on gay marriage last year.

But the Republican footprint in the state demands that GOP candidates for statewide office sweep independents and convert moderate Democrats. A three-way split among major candidates raised the possibility that Aiona could win with a plurality, but that scenario required Hannemann to be more competitive.

Lynn Finnegan, a former state House minority leader who was Aiona’s running mate four years ago, complained of “fear tactics” in the Democrats’ ads on teacher furloughs and abortion. She said Lingle had sought to be fair with public-sector labor unions on furloughs, which were alternatives to straight pay cuts or layoffs. She claimed Democrats were trying to scare women by suggesting Aiona would singlehandedly change abortion law, which he could not.

Finnegan said “there were hundreds of thousands of dollars that came in to protect the seat of a Democrat, even to the point where they said falsehoods to win.”

Hannemann, who also suffered a significant loss to Abercrombie in 2010, took the alternative path. Calculating that he would have trouble in a Democratic primary—the former mayor had also lost to U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, in a primary for Congress in 2012—he ran under the banner of the newly created Hawaii Independent Party.

“People are very much entrenched in the two-party system, particularly the older voter demographic, the 60 to 90 age group,” said Michelle Del Rosario, the party’s chairwoman. “It’s very difficult for them to get their hands around a concept of an independent candidate, particularly for governor.”

Hannemann and Lester Chang, a former city parks director who was his running mate, hoped they could appeal to independents as well as Democrats and Republicans fed up with partisan politics.

“The way we ran this campaign, it was about ideas. It was about issues,” Hannemann told supporters at his campaign headquarters in Kalihi. “It was a solid platform to improve the lives of our people.”

Jeff Davis, a solar contractor and talk radio host who ran as a Libertarian, was at 2 precent with much of the vote counted.


Staff writers Kristen Consillio, Mike Gordon, Nelson Daranciang and Richard Borreca contributed to this report.


Preschool initiative goes down to defeat

The amendment would have allowed spending public funds on private programs

By Nanea Kalani
POSTED: 04:24 p.m. HST, Nov 04, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 12:43 a.m. HST, Nov 05, 2014

Hawaii voters rejected the idea of using public funds for private preschool programs, defeating a proposed amendment that pitted early learning advo-cates against the public teachers union.

Constitutional amendments need a majority of yes votes—50 percent plus one vote—among all ballots cast in order to pass, meaning blank and spoiled votes count against the initiative.

The measure—one of five proposed statewide amendments on the ballot—attracted 43.4 percent of votes in favor, while 52 percent of voters rejected the initiative.

The amendment had proposed lifting the prohibition on public funds being used to support or benefit private educational institutions. It would have given the state the ability to use a combination of preschool classrooms at public schools and state-funded slots in private preschools to eventually serve all of the state’s 17,200 4-year-olds with a publicly funded preschool education.

“Because the constitutional amendment was defeated, it is now up to the Legislature to decide whether the state will support prekindergarten funded and run solely by the Department of Education. This comes with a heavy, heavy price tag,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Good Beginnings Alliance, the leading proponent of the initiative.

“Unfortunately, Hawaii remains the lone state in the nation where government is not able to contract with nonprofit early education providers for quality early education,” she said.

Preschool in the islands has historically been provided by community-based organizations funded with philanthropic and federal support. About half of the state’s schoolchildren enter kindergarten without a preschool education.

The powerful Hawaii State Teachers Association, representing some 12,500 public school teachers, staunchly opposed the amendment, arguing that a public preschool program should be built within the public school system to serve all children, free of charge. The union said that subsidizing tuition at private preschools would take money away from public schools.

“Given the debate and media coverage of this issue, there can be no doubt that quality preschool for all children matters to us all,” HSTA vice president and Kapolei High School teacher Joan Lewis said in a statement.

She said HSTA is committed to publicly funded preschool. “Hawaii’s children and working families need all of us to make this happen.”

Kaneohe resident Jerry Jordan said he voted against the measure.

“The way I look at it, it’s just an approach to taxpayer-funded baby-sitting for families where both parents are working,” said the retired Navy submarine officer.

Janelle Naone, also from Kaneohe, said she left the question blank.

“I hate that a blank vote means no. I know preschool is important for every child. They need that foundation, but I didn’t understand what it meant when it says they’ll give money to private preschools,” Naone said.

more amendments decided

Four other proposed constitutional amendments had mixed results.

>> Increasing the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges: Voters rejected a proposed amendment that would have increased the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges to 80 from 70.

Opponents who favored the existing age requirement said a mandatory limit is sometimes the only opportunity for change on the bench.

Supporters of the age increase had said that forcing judges to retire is a form of discrimination and argued that sitting judges should be able to serve as long as they’re competent and fit to do so.

>> Mandating disclosure of judicial nominees: The body that nominates state justices and judges will now be constitutionally required to publicly disclose names of nominees when presenting a shortlist of nominees to the governor or chief justice. The ballot measure passed, with 82 percent in favor.

>> Authorizing special-purpose revenue bonds for agricultural enterprises: Businesses on agricultural land will have the ability to access special financing for agricultural projects. The proposed measure edged ahead with 50.2 percent of ballots marked “yes.”

Special-purpose revenue bonds are a type of municipal revenue bond that can be issued by the state to

provide financing for qualifying private capital improve-ment projects in the public interest. The bonds do not involve state money; they are sold to private investors, who provide the actual funds in exchange for tax-exempt interest payments.

>> Authorizing special-purpose revenue bonds for dam and reservoir owners: Owners of dams or reservoirs will be able to issue special-purpose revenue bonds to improve their facilities to protect public safety, with 63 percent of voters in favor of the amendment.

Takai bests rival Djou

Gabbard win is a landslide over Crowley

By BJ Reyes
POSTED: 04:30 p.m. HST, Nov 04, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 01:05 a.m. HST, Nov 05, 2014

Largely unknown outside of his own state House district when he launched his campaign more than a year ago, Mark Takai rode a surge of momentum in the final stretch of the campaign and turned out the Democratic vote in the hotly contested race for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

With all precincts reporting, Takai defeated Republican Charles Djou

52 percent to 48 percent in a general election that generated one of the lowest turnouts in state history. The difference was 6,941 votes.

“The work begins tomorrow,” Takai said in his victory speech just moments after Djou had called to concede.

In the other race for Congress, voters gave U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard a second term representing Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, covering rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. The Democrat cruised to victory over little-known and underfunded Republican Kawika Crowley in a rematch of their 2012 contest.

Gabbard secured 79 percent of the vote, compared with 19 percent for Crowley. The race also featured Libertarian Joe Kent, who garnered 2 percent.

Takai will become the newest member of Hawaii’s all-Democratic delegation and join a Congress that is solidly in Republican control after the balance of power in the Senate shifted to the GOP in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Takai said he felt his race was going to be extremely close, but that hard work from hundreds of supporters was key to his winning.

“It was incredible—the hundreds of people that came together to support us made this win possible,” he said.

Takai also said countering a flurry of TV advertising against him late in the race was important.

“When American Action Network came in with more than $300,000 (in ad spending) very late in the race, we knew that we had to compete,” he said. “So we actually worked real hard to ensure that we were able to put up on our side enough TV (ads) to counter that, and we did it.”

In an emotional concession speech, Djou said he did his best, but fell short again. This was Djou’s third unsuccessful shot at the seat after winning it in a special election in May 2010.

“We gave it our all tonight. We tried our hardest,” Djou told a few dozen supporters who had gathered at his campaign headquarters in Kalihi to watch the returns. “That dream that I have, that belief that I have for building a strong, two-party democracy, changing our government, transforming how Hawaii operates, is going to have to be deferred yet another day.”

As for whether he would ever run again, Djou just said, “We’ll see.”

The race between Takai and Djou, two seasoned legislators and military veterans who served overseas, had been close until Election Day. Both were vying to succeed U.S. Rep. Colleen Hana-busa, the Demo-crat who gave up the seat representing urban Oahu in the U.S. House in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.

John Hart, chairman of the communications department at Hawaii Pacific University, said Takai had one big factor on his side.

“At the end of the day, he has a D after his name,” Hart said. “Charles is a very good candidate, but he did have some high negatives and when we see this kind of situation, usually when the lesser person becomes known, the opponent’s high negatives kick in.”

The closeness of the race left both candidates staking out centrist positions on policy while also trying to support some of the core principles of their parties.

Djou had stressed the need to lower the cost of doing business in Hawaii by reducing the layers of government regulation and taxes, thus encouraging more small-business owners to hire more employees and expand operations.

Takai voiced support for infrastructure projects at the federal level to drive the overall economy and spur job creation, and also backed renewable energy and sustainable food initiatives to prevent an estimated annual loss of $9 billion from the economy for the importation of foreign oil.

Takai also sought to tie Djou to tea party conservatives, whom many have blamed for the bitter partisan gridlock in Congress, saying their values are not in line with those of traditionally Demo-cratic Hawaii.

Djou countered that his election would be more beneficial to Hawaii because it would give the islands a seat in the majority party in the U.S. House.

Both relied on expensive media campaigns to get out their messages.

Takai raised about $1.4 million in the campaign through Oct. 15, the latest date for which reports are available at the Federal Elections Commission website. He spent about $1.2 million on the race overall, which included an expensive campaign to emerge from a crowded Demo-cratic primary.

Djou had raised about $925,000 and spent only about $548,000 as of Oct. 15. Unlike Takai, Djou spent little in the GOP primary against token opposition, giving him the cash on hand in the final weeks of the campaign to mount a last-second ad blitz of television and radio commercials.

But both also received substantial help from mainland interests, also known as super PACs, which are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to try to influence a race, so long as there is no coordination with a candidate or party.

In the final weeks of the campaign, the American Action Network, a conservative political action committee headed by former Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, spent about $300,000 on television ads against Takai.

Meanwhile, the group Working Families for Hawaii, a labor group financed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, entered the race with $144,000 in TV ads against Djou., a group that supports progressive veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Congress, supported Takai with $185,000 in early October, on top of $175,000 it spent to raise his name identification in the primary.

Takai supporters joined other Democratic candidates at the Manoa Grand Ballroom in the Japa-nese Cultural Center in Moiliili for an Election Night rally co-hosted by comedian Andy Bumatai and state Democratic Party Chairwoman Stephanie Ohigashi. Entertainment was provided by Brother Noland.

Nuuanu resident Christina Aikau caught the bus to the campaign event to support Takai after she got off work in the accounting department for Foodland Super Market Ltd. in Kaimuki.

Aikau, who voted for Takai earlier in the day, said she believes the Democrat is the better choice, adding that he explained his positions well and is honest.

“I think he’ll do the job,” she said.

Takai spent the afternoon sign-waving across the district and making phone calls to try to turn out every last one of his voters.

Djou visited Island Pacific Academy in Kapolei in the morning to discuss the elections with third-graders.

The race was close throughout, characterized by close polling results and the money spent by both sides.

Takai, 47, served in the state Legislature representing the Newtown-Pearl City area for 20 years. A lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Army National Guard, Takai was deployed to Kuwait in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Djou, 44, served in the state House and City Council before winning the 1st Congressional District seat in 2010. In May of that year, Djou emerged victorious from a special election over Democrats Hanabusa and Ed Case, and held the seat until he was defeated in the November general election by Hanabusa later that year. A major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Djou was deployed with his unit in 2011 to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.


Star-Advertiser reporters Andrew Gomes and Kathryn Mykleseth contributed to this report.