Democrat Denny Coffman easily defeated Republican challenger Dave Bateman for the open State House District 5 seat Tuesday.
District 5 stretches from west Ka‘u to Keauhou. Coffman previously served two terms in District 6, but ended up in District 5 after the state adjusted district boundary lines this year. Coffman got more than double the votes Bateman did, with 5,404 ballots — 67 percent — cast in his favor, compared with Bateman’s 2,605 — 33 percent.
Coffman said he wanted to thank his new constituents — he estimated the district only had about a 20 percent overlap with his previous district — for trusting him to represent them in the Legislature. Conversations with those constituents have given him several new issues on which to focus.
“With over 8,000 citizens in Ocean View, we’re busing those elementary students too far,” Coffman said, adding he would like to see the Department of Education open an elementary school closer to that community.
Naalehu, with small farms and family gardens, has a need for more water, he added. He said he would like to see more access to the water systems the sugar plantations in the area developed. And, as with most areas around the island, South Kona and Ka‘u residents want to see more protections for the district’s coastlines, Coffman said.
Bateman congratulated Coffman and thanked him for running a “good race, a clean campaign.” Although he didn’t win, Bateman said he appreciated the campaign.
Coffman, a Democrat who has served two terms in the state House, focused on the state’s pressing energy issues in his campaign for re-election. He developed a plan for legislation creating a statewide energy plan, administered by a separate agency to map out how Hawaii can cut back on the amount of fossil fuels it uses. He said he hopes making that transition would hopefully lower electricity rates.
He said he also supports a move to using more liquid natural gas and geothermal energy. He supports a moratorium on new power purchase agreements and wants the Public Utilities Commission to stop approving long-term projects that do not decrease the cost of electricity or lead utilities to replace oil-based generation systems.
Bateman, a Republican, campaigned on an approach he said would encourage business in Hawaii, a state many business owners claim doesn’t have a business-friendly climate. He wanted the state Legislature to lower taxes, cut electricity costs, limit red tape and develop an educated work force.