- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County Democrats have selected final candidates to fill the seat of former state lawmaker Clift Tsuji, who died last month.

Democrats chose Moana Kelii, Stacy Higa and Christopher Todd during a voting session at Keaukaha Elementary School in Hilo on Saturday, reported the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (https://bit.ly/2gYrwMb ).

Gov. David Ige will appoint one of the three to Tsuji’s House of Representatives District 2 seat. State law requires him to fill the seat within 60 days of Tsuji’s death, and the appointee will serve a full two-year term.

The legislative session begins Jan. 18.

“We expedited this, trying to get this going as quickly as we can,” said Phil Barnes, chairman of the Hawaii County Democratic Party. “Whoever ends up holding the seat has to be prepared before the session starts.”

Seven candidates originally submitted their names for consideration, but only five attended the Saturday event. In addition to Kelii, Higa and Todd, Laura Acasio and Jonathan Wong showed up.

The candidates each gave a speech and completed a round of short interviews before runoff ballot voting determined the finalists.

Kelii said she spent nine months campaigning for council and developed a good sense of the district’s needs and concerns. She also said her job as a union agent for the Hawaii Government Employees Association provides “institutional knowledge of state government.”

In his introductory speech, Higa said he Tsuji’s priorities would become his priorities and that he would use his analytic management style to serve the community. Higa served on the county council for two years and made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2008.

Todd is a distribution manager at Hawaii Paper Products, a sports coach at an elementary school and a Hilo High football and track coach. If elected, he said his priorities would be making sure schools are adequately funded and giving teachers the resources needed to succeed.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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