Filipino candidates win big in Hawaii elections

HAWAII STATE SENATOR Donna Mercado Kim was reelected in the just concluded elections. She is Filipino-Korean American

By Atty. Emmanuel S. Tipon
Hawaii Bureau Chief and Columnist

HONOLULU – The Filipinos in Hawaii are firmly on the road to political empowerment with the November 8 victory of 11 Filipinos – the most number of winners in an election since Hawaii became a state.

 Unfortunately, Filipinos did not win the governorship because there was no Filipino candidate in the general election. Vicky Cayetano, the wife of former Filipino governor Benjamin Cayetano, lost in the primary.
The Filipino winners include five State Senators, five State Representatives and a City Council member in Honolulu. 

 No Filipino candidate lost, unless the candidate was fighting another Filipino.


 The most spectacular winner among Filipinos in Hawaii was Valerie Aquino Okimoto, a 40-something, very attractive mother of 2 young daughters. She won in Honolulu City Council District 8, which is predominantly Japanese and Filipino. She easily beat the career politician Ron Menor, an attorney and former Councilmember of Honolulu, a former State Senator and a former State Representative, thereby effectively ending Menor’s career. Okimoto obtained 19,917 votes (53.3%) to Menor’s 15,225 votes (40.8%).

 Menor, while a state Senator in April 2008, was arrested by police on suspicion of drunken driving although he claimed he was arrested only for driving too slowly on the freeway. He reportedly admitted drinking at most two glasses of wine during a meal. His 11-year-old son was his passenger. According to reports, Menor pleaded no contest and the court sentenced him to two days in jail and $800 fine. He was shown on television in a jailbird’s outfit.

 Valerie joins two other Filipinos in the Honolulu City Council: (1) Radiant Cordero, daughter of prominent realtor David Cordero and the beauteous Fil-Am Courier publisher Mary Llanos Cordero, and (2) Augusto “Augie” Tulba, a popular comedian who traces his roots to Siquijor.


 The second most spectacular winner among Hawaii Filipinos was Rose Martinez who unsuccessfully ran 3 times for the position of state legislator in District 40, Ewa Beach, before winning on November 8. Her district is predominantly Filipino. Rose is a former teacher and a health care worker. She is from Urdaneta, Pangasinan. She is the wife of popular radio host and announcer Florante Martinez of KNDI radio station, owned by Geronimo Malabed, the only Filipino-owned radio station in Hawaii.

 The winning State Senators of Filipino descent were:

Lorraine Rodero Inouye, Dist. 1

Joy San Buenaventura, Dist. 2

Donna Mercado Kim, Dist. 14

Brandon Elefante, Dist. 16

Donovan de la Cruz, Dist. 17


The winning Filipino State Representatives were:

Della Au Belatti, Dist. 26

Ernesto Ganaden, Dist. 30

Rose Martinez, Dist. 40

David A. Alcos, Dist. 41

Diamond Garcia, Dist. 42



Valerie Aquino Okimoto, Dist. 8



Elected Governor of Hawaii was Josh Green, a prominent physician and current Lt. Governor. Green’s father had a construction business in the Philippines during the Marcos I years and he had lived there with his father. He is the only human being I know who answers my text messages in one minute, even when he was confined in the hospital for Covid-19. Dr. Green said that he is “inspired by the hopes, challenges, and values of the families he cares for.” “Let’s Go Green,” was a campaign slogan I suggested to him.

Governor-elect Green is married to Jaime Kanani Ushiroda, a lawyer whom this writer has met, who is said to have some Filipino blood in her veins. They have a daughter Maia, 14 and a son Sam, 10.