Hospitality industry announces endorsements


The Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, the state’s largest private sector tourism organization with 700 members representing more than 50,000 hotel rooms and nearly 40,000 lodging workers, announced on Saturday its endorsements of state and county candidates running in the Primary Election on August 11.

The selections were made after what HLTA President & CEO Mufi Hannemann described as an “exhaustive and comprehensive” month long endorsement process.  It involved invited candidates completing a tourism-centric questionnaire soliciting their views on issues of importance to the hospitality industry; scrutiny of those responses by the association’s state endorsement committee; similar review meetings by the HLTA’s county chapters on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, and Kauai; and final approval of the slate by the HLTA’s statewide board of directors. Hannemann said the “endorsement decisions were based largely on island-by-island grassroots input and feedback from those most familiar with the candidates and their records.”


In the Democratic race for the state’s chief executive, the HLTA endorsed incumbent Governor David Ige, spurred by what Hannemann reports as a unanimous vote from all four HLTA county chapters and the statewide endorsement committee.

Hannemann said, “Governor Ige and his administration have been very supportive of the hospitality industry, and always accessible to our members.  His leadership on tourism was reflected on how he heard our views on a potentially harmful resort fee bill and subsequently vetoed it.  His administration’s stand on the as-yet-unresolved transient vacation rentals issue, which is a top priority for HLTA, closely mirrors ours.  Moving forward, we anticipate collaborating more with the governor on ways in which we can continue to provide jobs for the 200,000-plus people who are dependent on tourism for their livelihoods and healthy quality of life.”

“While we are endorsing the governor, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is certainly a worthy candidate. Her work as a senator, for example, in making the Ko Olina resort development a reality added a welcome new dimension for the visitor industry which continues to expand and flourish today.”

Lieutenant Governor

The HLTA recommended support for Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., also in the Democratic primary.

Hannemann said, “In a crowded lieutenant governor’s field, we believe the people of Hawai‘i would be well-served by Mayor Bernard Carvalho.  The mayor has been a staunch supporter and ally of the visitor industry during his 10 years in office.  He has been there for us through thick and thin, an important quality given the challenges Garden Island tourism has experienced over that time.  His passion and support for tourism was also very much welcome and appreciated throughout the state, as he was an active participant in our HLTA events and activities.

“Hawai’i Island Senator Josh Green also received acknowledgement and support because he was a vocal opponent of raising the transient accommodations tax to pay for Honolulu’s rail project and was helpful in supporting the homeless repatriation program and backing the appropriation of matching state funds to address homelessness in tourism-impacted areas.”

Mayor, County of Kauai

Derek Kawakami won the endorsement of the HLTA in the race for mayor of the Garden Island.

Denise Wardlow, chair of HLTA’s Kauai Chapter endorsement committee and general manager of The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, said, “We faced a difficult choice in this race but ultimately decided that Derek Kawakami would be the best candidate for mayor.  One of the candidates, Council Chairman Mel Rapozo, has been a strong advocate for tourism and led the charge in fighting the Legislature’s attempt to raid the TAT.  But we felt that Derek Kawakami, with his experience on the County Council and House of Representatives, will provide the best meld of government and industry perspectives and priorities.  He has shown that he is a collaborative leader who will have the unique ability to bring elected officials together from the state and counties to work in the best interests of the Garden Island.”

Mayor, County of Maui

The HLTA endorsed Mike Victorino in the mayor’s race.

Gregg Nelson, HLTA chairman of the board and general manager of the Napili Kai Beach Resort, said, “Tourism has experienced unprecedented growth in the county.  We want to sustain the hospitality industry but recognize the need to balance industry needs with the preservation of our natural resources, demands on our infrastructure, and other concerns.  Former Councilmember Mike Victorino will bring steady, experienced leadership to the helm of county government. The industry knows we can count on Mike to guide Maui, Molokai, and Lanai in the right direction."

Endorsements for other races are listed below.

Hannemann noted, “A few of the candidates we’ve endorsed will stand for election in the general election.  However, we wanted to endorse them now as an expression of our appreciation for their outstanding contributions to the hospitality industry and tourism.”


Kaialii Kahele

Lorraine Rodero Inouye

J. Kalani English

Brickwood Galuteria

Ken Ito


House of Representatives

Christopher L.T. Todd

Richard H.K. Onishi

Cindy Evans

Troy Hashimoto

Justin Woodson

Don Couch

Kyle Yamashita

Lynn DeCoite

James Kunane Tokioka

Stephanie N. Iona

Gene Ward

Calvin K.Y. Say

Tom Brower

Daniel Holt

Romy M. Cachola

Sam Satoru Kong

Bob McDermott

Sharon Har

Lei Uemura Learmont

Kika G. Bukoski

Scot Matayoshi


County of Hawaii

Valerie T. Poindexter

Ashley Kierkiewicz

Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder

Maile David

Herbert “Tim” Richards III


City and County of Honolulu

Robert “Bobby” Bunda

Trevor Ozawa

Carol Fukunaga


County of Kauai

Derek Kawakami                       

Arthur Brun

Mason K. Chock

Ross Kagawa

Arryl Kaneshiro


County of Maui

Mike Victorino                       

Kanamu Balinbin

Alice Lee

Alan M. Arakawa

Kelly Takaya King

Mike Molina

Yuki Lei Kashiwa Sugimura

Riki Hokama

Stacy Helm Crivello