Inouye appears to prevail in tight Senate race

  • Lorraine Inouye and Heather Kimball.

Democrat state Sen. Lorraine Inouye appeared to be heading toward victory Saturday in her re-election bid.

The Hilo incumbent representing District 4 was ahead of challenger Heather Kimball of Papaikou by a little more than 10 percentage points in Saturday’s primary election — 4,456 votes, or 55.4 percent of votes cast, compared to Kimball’s 3,580 votes, or 44.5 percent, with eight of 12 precincts reporting.


Just after 9 p.m., Inouye said she was “happy where we are,” as was her campaign committee, but “it seems like I’m not too comfortable yet, until I see at least the next (returns).”

Inouye, 78, of Paukaa, is a political veteran and chairs the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, giving her influence over policies affecting infrastructure and utility bills.

She was elected to the seat in 2014 and previously served in the Senate from 1998 to 2008 and was Hawaii County mayor from 1990 to 1992. Inouye, president of Aloha Blooms, a 10-acre nursery, served as a County Council member before that.

Inouye, however, was unhappy with voter turnout on Saturday.

While they’ve made voting “much easier for the voters through legislation,” Inouye said there’s still “a lot of education and a lot of work to do in making sure our people out there do vote.”

After second returns, Kimball said she was “hoping for better results at this stage of the evening,” but with a number of precincts unreported, there is “still a chance the numbers could go our way.”

“We’re just over here watching and celebrating having run a campaign — we couldn’t have done any more,” she said of her campaign.

It’s difficult to go up against an incumbent, especially one with such strong name recognition, Kimball said, but “we’re really proud of the campaign we ran.”

She expressed her gratitude for the support she’s gotten and said community volunteers have been “amazing … certainly mahalo to everyone … .”

And should Inouye be successful in her re-election bid, “I want to extend my congratulations and best wishes to her,” Kimball said.

Kimball, 46, of Papaikou, is a scientist, planning consultant and former Sierra Club chairwoman.

Senate District 4 covers much of the north end of Hawaii Island from Honolii Stream in the east to Kona International Airport in the west.

In the Democratic race for the District 3 State Senate seat currently held by Sen. Josh Green, who was seeking the post of lieutenant governor, County Councilman Dru Kanuha had 3,561 votes or 54.1 percent of the total votes cast, compared to 3,021 votes, or 45.9 percent, for Brenda Ford, a former County Council member.

The winner will face Libertarian Michael Last, who was unchallenged in Saturday’s primary, in the general election.

District 3 covers the southwest portion of the island, including areas south of Kona International Airport, South Point and Naalehu.

State Sen. Kai Kahele, a Hilo Democrat, was unopposed in the Saturday primary for the District 1 seat he currently holds, as was Hilo Libertarian Kimberly Arianoff.

They will face off in the general election in November.


District 1 represents Hilo, from south of Honolii Stream to the Puna district boundary in the south.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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