Victorino faces a difficult key challenge in Maui’s mayoral race
WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Maui Mayor Mike Victorino faces a tough primary race Saturday.
Eight candidates are fighting for the seat, and the top two voters will make it to the general election. It is not clear if the incumbent will be one of them.
Several of his challengers question his performance during the pandemic; others point to long-standing problems in Maui County — from the lack of affordable housing to the high cost of living.
Maui County’s mayoral candidate Richard Bissen is one of four leading candidates in the crowded field.
“I’m excited about the potential for Maui to put Kamaaina first for Maui to come together,” he said. “I think that’s really what we’re missing.”
Councilor Kelly King is also running for the seat.
“My extensive business experience brings me aside, and being in the renewable energy industry, I have spent a significant amount of time working with state and federal governments,” King said.
The four best candidates agree on three main priorities – affordable housing, management of tourism and diversification of the economy. “In terms of food sustainability and food safety, I think agriculture is certainly a big, big part of our economy that we should expand,” said Councilor Mike Molina, who is also running for mayor.
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Bissen wants to turn the axis deer crisis into a sustainable industry for Maui.
“I talk a lot about axis deer…because this one industry isn’t just going to provide food, it’s not just going to deal with the agricultural side of things,” he said.
“But it will also help our environment by preventing the spread of these animals into our watersheds.”
Meanwhile, King said she wants to see more jobs in technology, agriculture, healthcare and the arts.
Incumbent Victorino wants more wellness jobs.
“Now you don’t have to go to Honolulu for an MRI or a CAT scan or anything,” he said.
“You have professionals here who know how to diagnose so you don’t have to leave the island. So the hope is that as we bring wellness as an industry to Maui County, our residents will benefit.”
As for housing, Bissen and Molina both said they would use county-owned land and land to offset some of the cost to buyers.
King said she will help facilitate collaboration between developers and the public.
Victorino said it’s about building where people are: “Building more units in West Maui and South Maui so the people who work and live there don’t have to travel back and forth every day.”
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After all, the four want better tourism management.
Molina suggested charging visitors a fee to visit the county’s beach parks.
“Maybe start a reservation system for places like Hana,” he said.
“And also just improve the education of our tourists. I would like to see Hawaii known as a place for holistic healing and not just a place for wild luaus and parties. Come here with reverence.”
King proposed an app that would warn visitors when top tourist spots are congested.
Bissen would like to see more programs where visitors give back to the community.
Victorino vows to crack down on illegal short-term rentals.
Aside from those top priorities, King said climate change is also a priority.
“I think one of the biggest issues we’re going to face in the next eight years is climate change,” she said.
“That’s why we need an experienced leader who understands climate change and understands how to work with the state and federal government and actually with the global community.”
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