Rep. Onishi fends off upstart opponent

  • Richard Onishi and Raina Whiting.

State Rep. Richard Onishi appeared certain of victory Saturday night, with a significant lead over his sole opponent in the Democratic primary election for House District 3.

Challenger Raina Whiting, a Pahala school teacher running on a social Democrat platform inspired by Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, received a respectable number of votes, but trailed behind incumbent Onishi throughout the night.


At press time, with two of seven precincts reporting Saturday evening, Onishi’s victory seemed assured, having received 1,995 votes, representing 58 percent of all 3,405 votes for the district, which includes parts of South Hilo, Ka‘u and Puna districts from Pahala to Hilo, with Volcano, Mountain View, Keaau and Kurtistown in between.

By comparison, Whiting had received 1,410 votes, or 42 percent of the vote.

Onishi was hesitant to declare victory late Saturday evening, saying there was still room for the margin of victory to change. However, he said he felt good about his chances.

“I think that my record speaks for itself, and that people recognize that,” Onishi said, explaining that his campaign highlighted his political accomplishments from his two terms in office.

“I think that people look at results, and they feel that I’ve represented them well enough for them to feel comfortable keeping me,” Onishi said.

Whiting did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, Onishi complimented his opponent, saying Whiting ran “a good campaign.”


Victorious in the primary, Onishi will go on to the general election to face Libertarian challenger Fred Fogel.

Email Michael Brestovansky at

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