Centrist House speaker faces primary challenge from community organizer

Updated: Jul. 30, 2020 at 7:15 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - House Speaker Scott Saiki is facing a primary election challenge from progressive community organizer Kim Coco Iwamoto.

Saiki, who represents Kakaako, Downtown and McCully, has been a state representative for more than two decades and is an established centrist Democrat.

He says his record speaks for itself.

“This is an interesting race because it basically boils down to two candidates, one with a record and one who makes promises,” said Saiki.

“I’m pretty confident that the residents of District 26 recognize the work that we’ve done over the past few years and how we have tried to help people here.”

But Iwamoto says Saiki isn’t listening to people’s voices.

“I was door knocking before the shut down and I had a chance to speak one-on-one with our neighbors,” said Iwamoto, a former candidate for lieutenant governor.

She’s now meeting people for “street talks,” texting constituents and then meeting them on the street.

“I want to ... make sure that every day people, people who are feeling the pain the economic hardship, the pain of living paycheck to paycheck that their voices are being heard at the legislature and I don’t think that’s happening right now,” she said.

HNN political analyst Colin Moore called Iwamoto’s challenge a “little bit shocking” for Hawaii politics.

“This is something we don’t see very often in Hawaii politics to get a well-organized challenge from the left and that’s certainly what this is,” he said.

“This is a little bit shocking because it’s very rare for people at that level to get a credible challenger.”

Moore said while Saiki has to fight for his seat, but isn’t predicting a win for Iwamoto.

“I think it’s unlikely that Kim Coco Iwamoto will be successful. The district itself is sort of centrist,” said Moore.

Because there is no one from another party in this race, the winner will be decided in the primary on Aug. 8.

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