Civil rights advocate once again challenges state House speaker in primary race

Published: Jul. 10, 2022 at 5:53 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 10, 2022 at 9:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A contentious Democratic primary race is putting the speaker of the state House on the defensive.

Incumbent Scott Saiki is challenged once again by civil rights advocate Kim Coco Iwamoto.

The race is happening on a changing playing field. The district from downtown Honolulu to McKinley and Kakaako has grown from semi-industrial area to a growing high rise residential area.

“Even though this is predominantly a high-rise area, the residents here have the same concerns as residents throughout the state,” said Saiki. “They want a community that is safe, affordable, and enjoyable.”

Saiki has been serving the downtown, McCully and Kakaako area for 28 years and served as state House speaker for five years.

“Some of my greatest accomplishments were actually projects that were initiated by residents in our community,” said Saiki. “Going far as far back as seven years ago when we took on a private company that had claimed ownership of roads in our community.”

Saiki said the last elections was during the peak of the pandemic, so this round gives him an opportunity to meet with people face to face.

“I’m just very confident that the residents of this area recognize my accomplishments,” said Saiki. “They know what my record is, so I feel very positive about this.”

“He’s been there for 28 years and he’s had his chance, and it’s time to give somebody else an opportunity to contribute to improving our community,” said Iwamoto.

The former Board of Education member and lieutenant governor candidate challenged Saiki in 2020 and the results were close.

She believes it put pressure on Saiki and led him to pay more attention to community projects.

“It shouldn’t take, you know, somebody running against him to actually force him to deliver the kind of representation that our community has been waiting for,” Iwamoto said.

Iwamoto said she is focused on revitalizing Kakaako and building homes that local families can afford.

She said a lot of the high-rise units are vacant and proposed a surcharge on empty homes.

“And we use that revenue to actually subsidize emergency housing vouchers so that we can house our unsheltered neighbors and also use that resource to also build more affordable housing,” said Iwamoto.

The winner will face general election opposition from much less known Republican opponents Rob Novak and Thomas Brandt.

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