Victorino faces tough primary challenge in Maui mayoral race

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino faces a tough primary election fight Saturday.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:40 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 12, 2022 at 4:44 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Mayor Mike Victorino faces a tough primary election fight Saturday.

Eight candidates are vying for the seat, and the top two vote-getters will make it through to the general election. It’s not clear that the incumbent will be one of them.

Several of his challengers are questioning his performance during the pandemic; others are pointing to longstanding issues in Maui County ― from the lack of affordable housing to the high cost of living.

Maui County mayoral candidate Richard Bissen is one of four leading candidates in the crowded field.

“I’m excited about the potential for Maui to put kamaaina first, for Maui to come together,” he said. “I think that’s really what we’re missing.”

Councilmember Kelly King is also running for the seat.

“My extensive business experience sets me aside and because it’s in the renewable energy industry, I’ve spent a lot of time working with state and federal government,” King said.

The top four candidates agree on three main priorities — affordable housing, managing tourism and diversifying the economy. “In terms of food sustainability and food safety, I think agriculture is certainly a big, big part of our economy we should expand upon,” said Councilmember Mike Molina, who’s also running for mayor.

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Bissen wants to turn the axis deer crisis into a sustainable industry for Maui.

“I talk a lot about axis deer … because that one industry will not only provide food, will not only address the agricultural side of things,” he said.

“But it will also help our environment by preventing the spread of these these animals into our watersheds.”

Meanwhile, King said she wants to see more jobs in technology, agriculture, health care and the arts.

The incumbent, Victorino, wants more wellness professions.

“Now you don’t have to go to Honolulu for an MRI or a CAT scan or something,” he said.

“You have professionals that know how to diagnose right here so you don’t have to go off island. So, the hope is that by bringing wellness as an industry to Maui County, it will benefit our residents.”

In terms of housing, Bissen and Molina both said they would use county-owned properties and lands to help offset part of the cost for buyers.

King said she will help facilitate more collaboration between the developers and the public.

Victorino said it’s about building where people are: “Building in West Maui and South Maui more units so that people who work there and live there, don’t have to travel every day back and forth.”

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Lastly, the four want better tourism management.

Molina suggested charging visitors a fee to visit county beach parks.

“Maybe starting a reservation system for places like Hana,” he said.

“And also just stepping up the education of our tourists. I’d like to see Hawaii be known as a place for holistic healing and not just a place for a wild luaus and parties. Come here with reverence.”

King suggested an app that alerts visitors when top tourist attractions are overcapacity.

Bissen wants to see more programs where visitors give back to the community.

Victorino vows to crack down on illegal short-term vacation rentals.

Aside from those top priorities, King said climate change is also at the forefront.

“I think one of the biggest issues that we’re gonna be facing in the next eight years is climate change,” she said.

“So we need an experienced leader who understands climate change and understands how to collaborate with the state and federal and actually the global community.”

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