Republican state Senate hopeful Bart Mulvihill contends that Democratic state Sen. Roz Baker's backing of mortgage reform has been a "total disaster," with lenders choosing to take delinquent homeowners straight to judicial foreclosures and leaving them with ruined credit.
Baker, a 20-year veteran in the Legislature and chairwoman of the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, makes no apologies for her "championing the cause of protecting consumers in our state."
On Tuesday, Mulvihill, 60, will make a second attempt to unseat Baker, 66, from the Senate district that serves residents of West and South Maui. In 2008, Mulvihill ran as a Democrat against Baker, who won the party primary with 67.2 percent of the votes to Mulvihill's 25.1 percent.
ROZ BAKER, Democratic state Sen.
BART MULVIHILL, Republican state Senate hopeful
Mulvihill, a licensed real estate salesman, paints Baker as being anti-business.
"We need our elected officials not only to govern and make laws but to be ambassadors to new business," he said.
Mulvihill cited Baker's advocacy of mortgage reform that became Acts 48 and 182 at the state Capitol as examples of legislation gone awry.
SENATE DISTRICT 6
(West and South Maui)
Born: Sept. 20, 1946; El Campo, Texas
Occupation: State senator
Elected offices: Hawaii state House of Representatives (West Maui, Molokai, Lanai), 1988 to 1993; appointed to Senate, November 1993, by then-Gov. John Waihee (West Maui, part of Central Maui, Molokai, Lanai); elected to Senate in 1994; lost re-election in 1998 primary; elected to Senate 5th District (South and West Maui), 2002, 2004 and 2008
Education: Bachelor of arts, political science and speech, with a secondary teaching certificate, Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University at San Marcos), 1968; graduate studies in political science, University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as University of Louisiana, Lafayette), 1968 to 1969
Community involvement: American Cancer Society, Hawaii-Pacific board chairwoman and volunteer; Maui Economic Development Board, director; Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunrise, past president and member; West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force, Women Helping Women; Maui Children & Youth Day, co-chairwoman and co-founder
* * *
Born: June 21, 1960; Hollywood, Calif.
Occupation: Licensed real estate salesman
Education: Seabury Hall, 1978; University of Hawaii, 1979; Stapleton School of Real Estate, 1990 accredited; Southern Nevada School of Real Estate; Hawaii Academy of Real Estate broker's certification
Community involvement: Coached youth baseball and basketball
Family: Single, two adult children
The legislation was intended to force mediation between mortgage lenders and borrowers but, without the option of nonjudicial foreclosures, lenders have opted for judicial foreclosures that have flooded the state's courts with delinquent home mortgage cases, he said.
Mulvihill said that if homeowners having trouble paying their monthly mortgages could get out from under the debt through short sales or by surrendering their properties to lenders, then the impact on their credit would not be as severe. But the mortgage reform law made those options less likely, he said.
And, with a judicial foreclosure, the judgment against the borrower goes on his or her record and "goes straight to the top of a credit report," he said. "It's as bad as being evicted and worse."
Mulvihill said there are 12,000 delinquent home mortgage cases pending in Hawaii courts.
Baker said Mulvihill doesn't understand the mortgage reform legislation, which was aimed at stopping the most egregious foreclosure practices by lenders using nonjudicial foreclosures.
"Prior to Act 48, lenders could and did foreclose on homeowners with little if any notice, often without the legal basis to do so, and with no oversight by an impartial third party and no interest in working with their customers," she said. "The horror stories of abuse by offshore lenders were abundant. Our old, outdated nonjudicial foreclosure laws contained few and limited consumer protections and were heavily weighted in favor of the lenders."
She said Act 48 and its amendments in Act 182, which also focused on assisting condominium associations with lien foreclosures, and subsequent federal action "have created a more level playing field for homeowners who find themselves faced with the prospect of foreclosure."
"They must be dealt with fairly and have options prior to losing their home to foreclosure," she said. "There are in fact more short sales and deeds in lieu (of foreclosure) as part of the options available."
Baker noted that she, and not Mulvihill, has been endorsed by the Hawaii Association of Realtors.
"If the situation were as Mr. Mulvihill describes it, I doubt I would have their endorsement," she said.
Mulvihill also is critical of Baker's role in shepherding the Kihei high school project through the state Senate.
While he credits the senator for trying "diligently" to advance the now $120 million project, Mulvihill maintains that Baker "should have put her foot down" to insist that the site mauka of Piilani Highway is too costly because it's not near infrastructure such as electricity, water, sewage and cable systems. The school's infrastructure development costs alone are estimated to run from $23 million to $31 million, he said.
If a property large enough for a single campus could not be found on the makai side of Piilani Highway, then the state Department of Education could have acquired two properties on that side of the highway to develop two South Maui campuses, he said.
Mulvihill, a 1978 graduate of Seabury Hall, said there are advantages of small campuses because the student body is "more relaxed and friendlier" and teachers and school administrators can more easily keep watch on a smaller campus population of students.
Mulvihill added that it's taken too long to build the Kihei high school. "They should have built that high school 20 years ago," he said.
Baker said new high schools typically take a long time to build in Hawaii, and the Kihei high school's site selection was "pretty much a done deal" through a community and DOE site-selection process by the time she was returned to the Senate in 2002 after being out of office for four years.
"Mr. Mulvihill apparently does not appreciate the amount of planning and community involvement that went into the site selection," she said.
Baker acknowledged that the high school will be slightly more expensive because of the terrain of the site, its larger acreage and lack of on-site infrastructure.
"It will have adequate acreage for the school to grow and accommodate community uses," she said.
Baker dismissed Mulvihill's idea of splitting the school's campus into two sites, saying it "makes no pedagogical or economic sense."
"It would be more costly in the long run to staff and operate split campuses. It would not create the best possible learning experience for the students," she said.
Baker said that if Mulvihill's ideas for a split campus were implemented, "making Kihei high school a reality would be severely set back."
Mulvihill attempts to take Baker to task for having a website, rozbaker.com, that he said inaccurately reported for four years that the senator continued to hold the chairmanship of the Legislature's powerful Ways and Means Committee.
He said Baker was "bumped down" in 2008 to the chairmanship of the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, a move that showed she has "lost friends, lost influence and upset people" at the state Capitol.
Baker said the Senate reorganizes every two years.
"Sometimes we keep the same lineup; sometimes changes are made," she said. "I have served in a variety of leadership positions, and no matter what I am asked to do or what position I'm asked to serve in, I do my best to assist the Senate in accomplishing its policy goals and to represent my district's goals and aspirations as best I can."
Mulvihill said Baker is a "soft-spoken, kind lady" who doesn't want to "upset the apple cart with her Democratic friends."
He said he would do a better job of representing the Senate district because "I've got a very thick skin" and because he can use the skills he's learned in car and real estate sales to make friends at the state Capitol and get things done.
"I'm a negotiator. I bring money and buyers together," he said.
Baker said the state Senate is made up of 25 members, with only one (Sen. Sam Slom) being a Republican.
"Leadership positions stay within the members of the majority caucus," she said. "It is doubtful that Mr. Mulvihill would be in any position to get any legislation passed or secure any items in the budget.
"I believe my legislative record speaks for itself in terms of the money brought back to Maui for important projects and for legislation passed that I authored or shepherded through the legislative process," she said.
Baker also responded to Mulvihill's dig about the website.
"Sorry if Bart couldn't figure out that my old campaign website hadn't been updated on anything after 2008," she said. "There was no attempt to mislead. I just moved on to being a senator and working in issues that were important - maintaining a website wasn't on that list."
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.