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Kaua‘i democratic party accepting applications for Jimmy Tokioka’s statehouse seat

LIHU‘E — Out of work? Consider applying for a job as the next District 16 state representative.

The Democratic Party of Kaua‘i announced Monday night that it is accepting applications for the role vacated by longtime state Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, who recently accepted a job as state Department of Transportation Airports Division deputy director in the administration of new Gov. Josh Green.

The Democratic District 16 Council, chaired by Mike Miranda, will submit the names of three candidates to Green, who will choose between the options.

The list of people who have expressed their interest in the role to The Garden Island now includes sitting Kaua‘i County Council member Luke Evslin, Kaua‘i Police Department Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce, and former council Vice Chair Mason Chock.

Evslin, who has served on the County Council for four years and was reelected in November 2022, listed his goals for the statehouse, which include increasing opportunities for multifamily housing construction, crafting more equitable tax policy and adapting to climate change.

“This has been a difficult decision for my family, as serving in the state Legislature requires living on O‘ahu away from my wife, young daughter, and young son for four months a year,” said Evslin in a statement.

“But, many of our problems — from housing to climate change — loom larger every year. In these fights, it’s possible to be too late. I firmly believe that effective policy can help solve some of the biggest collective challenges we face in Hawai’i. And while county policy can be hugely impactful, we can accomplish much more at the state Legislature.”

Chock confirmed Tuesday he was planning on submitting an application, but said that he was still figuring out whether he could fully commit to the role.

Chock and Evslin have been frequent partners on County Council initiatives, last year pushing a series of measures aimed at providing a steady stream of funding for affordable housing.

If Evslin is chosen, his vacant council seat would be filled by a majority vote from remaining County Council members (not through a special election, as a Monday story in The Garden
Island incorrectly stated).

Former County Council Member Ross Kagawa, who finished just outside the top seven in the recent County Council election, said he is not seeking the state legislator position, but he would be interested in pursuing a vacant County Council seat created if a current member was chosen for the House vacancy.

Ponce, who has served 25 years in the Kaua‘i Police Department, said his interest in the seat was inspired by his grandfather Tony’s political involvement.

“Throughout my career as a police officer and with the police union SHOPO, I learned how important the legislative branch of government was to the health, welfare, economic growth, strategic planning and progressive forecasting for the greater good of Hawai‘i’s families and tourism alike,” said Ponce.

“My passion for public service and representing everyone in (the district) motivates me to do everything I can to keep Kaua‘i the greatest place in the entire world to live, work and play. I want to introduce and pass smart, sustainable laws and continue to lobby for funding to address critically important issues, such as the environment and climate change, homelessness, drug addiction, quality health care, public access and affordable housing.”

Other individuals who may receive consideration for the role are former council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and nonprofit and community leader Nikki Cristobal, both of whom could not be reached for comment by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

To apply, candidates must live in the district, which includes portions of the East Side, and need to submit verified signatures from at least five party members also residing in the district. The application includes a series of free-response questions regarding affordable housing, homelessness, public education and climate change, along with a test question about the process of how a bill becomes law at the state Legislature.

Applications are due by Jan. 13. Candidates will be interviewed on Jan. 17, and a list of three candidates will be submitted by Jan. 24 to the Green, who will have 60 days to make his final decision.


Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or
Source: The Garden Island

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