San Buenaventura to seek Ruderman’s state Senate seat



State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura of Puna will seek the 2nd District Senate seat currently held by Russell Ruderman, who on Wednesday announced he would not run for re-election.

San Buenaventura, a Democrat who was first elected in 2014 and already filed to run for her incumbent 4th District House seat, said she received a call Sunday from Ruderman, also a Democrat, who said he would not run again.


“I would rather have had Russell remain as senator and I stay in the House, because I am in House leadership …,” said San Buenaventura, chairwoman of the House Committee on Human Services and Homelessness and vice chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“I chose to run because I would rather have somebody experienced in the Senate,” and because Senate terms are four years, compared to two years for the House.

The Senate seat should be filled by someone “more experienced in how to get things done for Puna and the Big Island,” she said.

Ruderman on Wednesday said personal, health and political reasons led to his decision not to seek another term.

In a follow-up email to the Tribune-Herald, Ruderman said he’s not running for re-election mostly because of health concerns.

“Because of these, and considering the limits of what is possible at the state Legislature, I see other ways of being more effective with my time,” he said.

Ruderman, who was first elected to the 2nd District seat in 2012, did not elaborate on potential future endeavors.

Among his most significant achievements during his time in the Legislature was the establishment of a statewide “farm-to-school” program, which Ruderman said “has grown into the biggest expansion of local food markets and is still growing.”

Other achievements include environmental advocacy, accelerating highway improvements and securing lava recovery funding, among others, he said.

Ruderman said he was most disappointed about not being able to complete work on an “ag park,” regional libraries in Puna, the Pohoiki boat ramp and PMAR, the Puna Makai Alternate Route.

San Buenaventura said she was not surprised by Ruderman’s call and said he previously conveyed he was unsure whether he would seek re-election.

“I’m glad he made up his mind before (the) filing deadline,” she said. “It allows for people to file for my vacant seat while I seek the election for his seat.”

If elected, San Buenaventura’s priorities for Puna would remain the same: addressing chronic homelessness, Highway 130 improvements and the Pohoiki boat ramp, which became landlocked during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano.

According to the state Office of Elections website, last updated May 15, just one other candidate has filed for the 2nd District Senate seat.

Smiley Burrows, who has been active in eruption recovery efforts, filed March 13 to run.

Burrows could not immediately be reached for comment.

Four candidates, including San Buenaventura, had filed to run for her 4th District House seat as of May 15, prior to the announcement she would run for Senate.


They include Republican Hope (Alohalani) Cermelj; Desmon Antone Haumea, a member of the Aloha Aina party; and nonpartisan Brian Ley.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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