Incumbent Democratic Upcountry state Rep. Kyle Yamashita will face off in Tuesday's general election against a Republican opponent who said he's still uncertain if he wants to be elected.
"I really don't know yet," Ekolu Kalama, 36, of Kula said this week. "If I win, I'll have to give up some happiness in my life. If I go into office and have my hands tied and no one listens to me, I don't know if I'm man enough to be able to keep my cool.
"I hope I don't win. If I get in office, I will represent the people, not the government. Not to any flag or any man, except the man above."
Yamashita, 53, of Makawao said he does want to continue the job he's had since elected in 2005. And he said he has accomplishments and ambitious goals for his district and the state.
The small-business person has used his personal experience to develop a unique place among colleagues, Yamashita said. He's a contributing member of the Finance, Transportation, Labor, Public Safety and Legislative Management committees, the last of which he chairs.
"It was not my lifelong ambition to be at the Capitol," Yamashita said. "It just evolved, and now that I've been in the Legislature for a little while, your focus becomes a little broader - and a little more focused."
HOUSE DISTRICT 12
Born: March 13, 1976, Honolulu
Occupation: Professional surfer and musician
Community involvement: Coaching community basketball and high school paddling
Family: Married, two children
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KYLE T. YAMASHITA
Born: Sept. 2, 1959; Honolulu
Occupation: Legislator; small-business person
Elected Offices Held: State House of Representatives, 2005-present
Community involvement: Parent Teacher Student Association, 1992-2011; scoutmaster, Boy Scouts of America Pukalani Troop 75, 1998-2006; Rotary 2002-2006; School Community Based Management, 2003-04; Maui County Real Property Tax Review Board 2003-04
Family: Married, two children
He remains a partner in a Kahului gas station. He uses some of those business insights to help achieve the overall goal of building a solid economy, Yamashita said.
His goals include streamlining government and lifting bureaucratic roadblocks that limit business, he said.
Yamashita, who generally doesn't attract much attention to himself, said he's working diligently, particularly through his position on the Finance Committee, "where 90 percent of bills must go through."
He's been working to develop more sustainable and secure agriculture and renewable energy, a modern work force with education improvements, health care investments and economic stimulation through more infrastructure, including broadband installations.
Kalama, a professional stand-up paddle boarder, entrepreneur and musician, said he has "nada" elected experience.
"My job though is to hear the people, be there for them, identify the problems and solve them," he said.
Kalama has made Native Hawaiian sovereignty a main plank in his platform.
He said he can trace his genealogy to King Piilani and called this race "a learning experience." Kalama said he wants to be elected prime minister of an independent Hawaiian nation in 2015 and called statehood an "illegal occupation by the U.S. government" destroying Hawaii.
Although he's running as a Republican, he said he's more of an independent.
Kalama said he, like Yamashita, wants to increase sustainable energy and agriculture and improve education.
While espousing the benefits of reinstating the old ahupuaa system, Kalama discussed the importance of nascent legislative issues, too, like preserving Lipoa Point.
Coincidentally, Yamashita said some of his other 12th House District goals include increasing the amount of important agricultural lands and supporting a state initiative to find a well to provide water to Upcountry farmers and residents. He's also pushing for more physical improvements to the area's schools and Kula Hospital.
Kalama said he isn't actively campaigning or soliciting donations "because I don't want to be in debt to anyone."
He's accused Yamashita of being beholden to Monsanto for accepting donations.
In Yamashita's Oct. 22 campaign contribution report, Monsanto is a listed as giving him $1,000 over two years as part of the House member's almost $86,000 war chest. The pages of contributors also include professionals, special interest groups, government worker and construction unions, developers and businesses.
"I receive donations from hundreds of individuals," Yamashita said, noting that most don't reach name-reporting thresholds. "Being part of the Legislature should equate to listening to all sides and all points of view to see the value in them. As far as where monies come from, I don't say 'no' because I believe in myself to be a fair and respected legislator."
Kalama said his opponent exemplifies a system closed to outsiders.
Yamashita disagreed strongly. He said he makes certain constituents get complete, unvarnished answers, which can take time, "instead of some political spiel."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.