Challenger looks to unseat 20-year incumbent in state Senate

Sen. Sam Slom, left, and Stanley Chang
Sen. Sam Slom, left, and Stanley Chang

There’s an Oahu race with a lot at stake.

State Sen. Sam Slom is the only Republican in the state Senate, but former Honolulu city councilman Stanley Chang wants to change that.

Slom represents the East Oahu area. It’s a seat he’s held for the past 20 years.

The 74-year-old has had health issues recently, but says he’s still got enough fire in him to finish what he wants to do, which is reduce government spending.

“If I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I get along with my colleagues. We’ve got to stop the rail, stop the financial bleeding. We’ve got to reduce government spending. We’ve got to do a better job though for the people of Hawaii, make homes affordable for young people.”

Slom describes his challenger, 33-year-old Chang, as “young and ambitious, and a great campaigner.”

Meanwhile, Chang said, “I have a ton of respect for Sen. Slom. Anyone who dedicated 20 years deserves our respect.”

But Chang is running because he says Hawaii Kai needs an “effective leader” with a proven track record.

“I think this election is about electing a member who is effective and can get things done,” he said. “I’ve also been able to translate that at city council to concrete results. If you are in Hawaii Kai, Aina Hina, Nui Valley, and Kahala, and you appreciate the newly repaved roads, that’s because we fought hard to triple Oahu’s road maintenance program.”

Chang says if given the position, he can “deliver for the district.”

“Given my track record, we really need somebody who can effectively tackle the problems of today. Whether that’s homelessness, affordable housing, an educational system, and East Honolulu needs a seat at that table,” Chang said.

Slom says he’ll leave Tuesday’s election results up to fate.

“This is not my seat. It belongs to the people,” he said. “If they want somebody else, they’ll do that, and I’m fine with that. I’ll continue doing what I’ve always done, and that’s advocating for the small business, the taxpayers, and the voters in the community.”

But if he wins, “I’ll still be the lone ranger. I’ll still be somebody that tries to prove you can disagree without being disagreeable.”

It’s a race political analyst John Hart says he’ll be watching.

“Stanley has spent a lot of money. He’s been very motivated. He’s done a lot of door-to-door. Sam is the last Republican in the Senate. His strategy is people know who he is. If they want to return him, they return him,” Hart said.

But he has reservations about an all-Democratic Senate.

“There are issues when you no longer have any loyal opposition,” Hart said. “I know Sam’s only one person, but I think it’s very symbolic should the Senate go all Democrat. The bar will be higher for them to get the job done.”

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