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Green’s state Senate seat draws 2 Big Island contenders

By Kevin Dayton; Honolulu Star Advertiser; September 22, 2017

State Rep. Richard Creagan and former Hawaii County Council Chairman Dru Kanuha have both announced they will run for the seat being vacated by Hawaii Island state Sen. Josh Green next year. Both are Democrats.

Green, who represents Kona and Kau, has announced he will leave the Senate to run for lieutenant governor in 2018.

Creagan, 72, was appointed by former Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2014 to represent a sprawling House district that extends from Naalehu and Ocean View to Kealakekua and Kailua- Kona. Creagan is a former emergency room physician and vice-chief of staff at Kona Community Hospital.

Creagan and his wife, Marilyn, live on a 104-acre farm in Kau, and Creagan is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

He said it has been an “honor and privilege” to represent the Kau House district, but said the special session to provide a financial bailout for the Honolulu rail project earlier this month made him realize “that an individual legislator in the House often has little voice or role. …

“I struggled to protect the interests of my island and other neighbor islands against the 2-to-1 margin of Oahu legislators and Oahu- dominated leadership,” Creagan said in his written announcement Wednesday. “The imposition of additional (hotel room tax) on neighbor islands and the use of that to support Oahu’s rail against our strong protests was especially grating.”

The Senate offers the chance to be a stronger advocate for his constituents, Creagan wrote.

Creagan and 14 other House members, including three others from Hawaii Island, voted against the hotel tax increase, but the measure passed anyway.

Kanuha, 33, was Hawaii County Council chairman from 2014 to 2016, and is now chairman of the council’s Governmental Relations and Economic Development Committee. He was first elected to the council in 2012, and represents portions of North and South Kona.

Kanuha was born and raised in Kona, and graduated from Kealakehe High School and the University of San Diego. He worked as a legislative aide for the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee in 2007, and worked at Kamehameha Schools’ Land Assets Division from 2009 to 2012.

Kanuha is president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, an organization that advocates for the counties at the state Legislature. He is also on the board of directors of the National Association of Counties and its Western Interstate Region.

Kanuha cited improvements in transportation and recreation during his three terms on the council, including construction of Laaloa Avenue as a mauka-makai connector to relieve traffic congestion in North Kona, and completion of the Mamalahoa Bypass Extension from Keauhou to Napoopoo to alleviate congestion in South Kona.

“I believe my experience working for my constituents at the state and federal levels will make me a more effective state senator, fighting for access to quality education and health care, building a stronger economy, and making more affordable housing available to local families,” Kanuha said in a written announcement.

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