The Hawai'i Lodging & Tourism Association's political action committee, HotelPAC, has announced its endorsements for the 2016 General Election. HLTA is the largest private-sector tourism organization in the state consisting of over 700 members with the mission of education and advocacy on behalf of the hospitality industry. HLTA also has active chapters in every county, and sponsors activities and events on all islands.
HLTA's political endorsement process included responding to tourism-based questionnaires that were sent to County and State candidates in contested races. Candidates who won in the primary without a general election were not included in the endorsement process.
HLTA received 74 completed questionnaires, which were then reviewed by a statewide political endorsement committee. To be eligible for consideration, candidates were required to complete and return the questionnaire to HLTA. Once reviewed by the committee, the candidates were either recommended for endorsement or marked as "open." Recommendations to suggest an open position were made where not all candidates submitted their questionnaires; where no candidates returned questionnaires; or where candidates were equally favorable. The slate was then reviewed and approved by the HLTA Executive Board. As a final step in the endorsement process, HLTA's Board of Directors held a special meeting to approve the slate.
Among the elections that were left open were the Honolulu mayoral race between incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell and former U.S. Congressman Charles Djou, as well as the Senate District 9 matchup between incumbent Senator Sam Slom and former Honolulu Councilmember Stanley Chang. Beyond their responses to the questionnaires, which all four returned, the committee felt that the candidates in both of these elections had worked closely with the hospitality industry and were equally deserving of an endorsement.
"We commend Mayor Caldwell for the dialogue and cooperation he has engaged in with the hospitality industry in building upon the track record of his predecessors. Two areas were noted in particular: his work with HLTA's initiatives on homelessness, and the city's support for ongoing revitalization projects in Waikiki. On the other hand, former U.S. Congressman Charles Djou was unequivocal in his support of HLTA's number-one legislative priority: pursuing uncollected taxes from transient vacation rentals to help ensure a level playing field. His endorsements from councilmembers who chair key committees also suggest a collaborative working relationship with the legislative body he was once a member of," said Mufi Hannemann, HLTA's President & CEO.
Hannemann also stated, "Sam Slom is a long-serving State Senator for East Honolulu and is the only Republican member and voice in that body. He has a record of being a solid advocate for small business. Stanley Chang showed promise as an up and coming leader in his interactions with the hospitality industry when he was a councilmember representing the Waikiki-Hawaii Kai district. He staunchly supports regulation and taxation parity between vacation rentals and traditional brick and mortar hotels. The recommendation to leave this race open was based on the premise that both candidates have a history of serving their constituency and supporting tourism "
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