Tuesday | August 22, 2017
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Kenoi wins broad support


Tribune-Herald staff writer

If former Mayor Harry Kim wants his old job back, he’s got to broaden his support beyond Puna.

If Mayor Billy Kenoi wants to be re-elected, he’s in good shape.

A precinct-by-precinct look of where the votes went in Saturday’s primary election show that while each of the major candidates have supporters spread around the island, Kenoi won the most votes in every precinct in West Hawaii, Kohala, Ka‘u, Hilo town and the rural Hilo coast.

Final vote tallies show that Kenoi earned 18,390 votes, Kim had 14,801 votes and Yagong had 8,352 votes. The other three candidates combined earned 1,074 votes.

Yagong received the highest percentage of the vote in his native Hamakua districts, including the precincts that cover Waipio Bay, Kukuihaele, Honokaa, Ahualoa and Paauilo.

And Kim won the most votes in the fast-growing district of Puna, topping all challengers in the precincts that include Kapoho, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Pahoa, Leilani Estates, Kurtistown, Mountain View, Glenwood, and Volcano.

If Puna were its own county, Kim would be a lock to be sworn in this December. But outside the district, almost everywhere else is Kenoi country.

In every other district — Ka‘u, Kona, Kohala, Hamakua and Hilo — voters showed they prefer Kenoi over Kim. Yagong was strongest in areas where Kim was weakest, and vice versa, suggesting that the two candidates split the votes of people who are opposed to Kenoi.

Even in the precincts where Kenoi did not get the most votes, the incumbent never finished worse than second place.

While Kenoi did well across the board, a third of his votes came from Hilo, in the area including Piihonua, Kaumana, Keaukaha and Waiakea Uka. Together, those precincts delivered 6,335 votes to Kenoi, compared to 5,038 for Kim and just 1,474 votes for Yagong.

In Puna precincts, Kim earned 3,747 votes to 3,083 for Kenoi. Yagong pulled in 1,610 votes there.

Kim’s chance of pulling an upset may depend on whether people who voted for Yagong will accept Kim. Yagong has had major disagreements with both the Kim and Kenoi administrations over fiscal policy and solid waste management, and the councilman has not indicated whether he will make an endorsement.

Kim, a native of Ola‘a, figures some of that support might come from his 24 years as the county Civil Defense Agency administrator, responding to volcanic disasters like the lava flows from Kilauea that destroyed Kalapana and Royal Gardens.

As mayor, he figures the work that his administration put into the revamping of Pohoiki Park, new construction for Pahoa’s fire and police stations (which were completed under the Kenoi administration), and “obviously, the geothermal issue” may have been factors that tilted Puna in his favor.

He also mentioned the free water spigots that Civil Defense made available for residents.

“The majority of Puna is on catchment,” he said.

Kim has been having discussions with a lot of people about how to proceed from here. He’s been encouraged to take a higher profile in the race. Kim agrees that some changes need to be made, but he’ll stick by his old rules: No fundraisers, no formal campaign structure, no campaign headquarters and no donations in excess of $10.

Kim expressed admiration for the Kenoi campaign and the money it has raised.

“I don’t have a single endorsement, except (the) Sierra Club,” he said.

Kenoi did not return a call seeking comment, but he has said in the past that he is running on his record of preserving core government services while reducing the cost of government in a tough economic environment, and that he looks forward to a positive, spirited campaign.

Some of Kenoi’s support in West Hawaii may be due to the numerous Kona projects that have been completed during his term, including the opening of the West Hawaii Civic Center, the federal stimulus-funded Ane Keohokalole Highway, the Mamalahoa Highway Bypass and other projects. The mayor also makes it a point to spend every Tuesday working in West Hawaii.

Email Peter Sur at psur@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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