HONOLULU — Four candidates are trying to unseat incumbent Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui in the Democratic nomination for the position.
Observers expect the primary to come down to Tsutsui and state Sen. Clayton Hee, with former TV journalist Mary Zanakis being the wild card.
Other Democrats in the primary include Sam Puletasi and Miles Shiratori. Elwin P. Ahu and Warner Kimo Sutton are vying for the Republican nomination.
Les Chang is the Hawaii Independent Party’s candidate, running with former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Cynthia “Lahi” Marlin is running as a Libertarian.
Once elected in the primary, the nominees campaign with the gubernatorial candidate as a single team for their party.
“I think it will be name recognition and your positive versus your negatives,” said Hawaii Pacific University communications professor John Hart. “Shan doesn’t have trouble with negatives; he has trouble with name recognition. Clayton doesn’t have trouble with name recognition; he has trouble with negatives.”
Tsutsui was state Senate president when he became lieutenant governor after Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
Even though he’s been lieutenant governor for only two years, Tsutsui said he’s hopeful voters judge him for representing Maui for 10 years as a legislator.
Hee, a familiar name in Hawaii politics, serves as chairman of the Judiciary and Labor Committee. This isn’t Hee’s first time running for lieutenant governor. He ran unsuccessfully in 2002.
Before that, Hee served as a state representative from 1982-1984 and as a state senator from 1984-1988. He also served in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from 1990-2002.
Zanakis could be a factor, as she’s hoping voters remember her from her 22 years as a news reporter for KITV and KHON-TV, Hart said.