Candidates vying to replace Coffman named
A short list of three candidates to finish state Rep. Denny Coffman’s unexpired term is on its way to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, culled from nine Democrats who submitted applications for House District 5 representing West Hawaii.
Coffman resigned Dec. 20, saying he was moving to Nevada to be closer to his oldest daughter, who is battling cancer. He was midway through his third term, representing Kailua-Kona, Kealakekua, Captain Cook, Ocean View and Naalehu.
Abercrombie is expected to select a replacement in time for the regular legislative session that starts Jan. 15. The new representative, like all representatives in the 51-member House, faces election this year.
The nine who applied for nomination were Abigail Au, constituent services representative in Abercrombie’s Kona office; Kaliko Chun, a Kailua-Kona resident who has weighed in on several issues before county and state public hearings; Richard Creagan, a Naalehu physician; Barbara Dalton, governor’s representative in Abercrombie’s Kona office; Una Greenaway, a Captain Cook coffee farmer; Lei Kihoi, an attorney for Native Hawaiian issues and member of the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission; Gene “Bucky” Leslie, a retiree and previous candidate for state representative; Michael Matsukawa, a Kailua-Kona attorney; and Steve Sakala, an environmental consultant and proprietor of a Honaunau farm retreat.
The list was winnowed to three Friday during a Hawaii Democratic Party District 5 Council meeting, John Buckstead, Democratic Party vice chairman for West Hawaii, said in a news release.
“The ranking and selection process maximized the preferences of the council members, and folks were pleased that we are able to submit three well-qualified nominees to the governor and that the process of making the selection was very fair and transparent to the voters,” Buckstead said.
Thirteen members of the district council participated in the ranking and selection process to determine the three nominees for the House seat. Four members of the District Council — Creagan, Dalton, Greenaway and Matsukawa — applied for the position and were recused from the meeting and the selection process, he added.
It’s not known who the three finalists are. Buckstead said the names of the three nominees would be released by the governor or state Democratic Party Chairman Dante Carpenter. Neither could be reached for comment by press time Monday.