Democrats claim all Big Island state House seats

Facing slim competition from challengers, Hawaii Democrats appeared poised to handily win all Big Island House seats Tuesday night.

After first results were published this evening, District 2 Rep. Chris Todd had won 4,400 votes, or 85 percent of all valid votes cast in his race — a commanding lead over the 773 votes, or 15 percent, claimed by his Republican challenger Grace Manipol-Larson.

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Todd said he felt confident in his first general election, having been appointed to represent District 2 — which includes parts of Hilo, Keaukaha, Panaewa and Waiakea — in 2017 by Gov. David Ige to replace his predecessor, Clift Tsuji, who died in office in 2016.

“I’ve been going door-to-door for candidates for as long as I can remember,” Todd said. “It’s eye-opening to be on this side of things.”

Todd said he hopes to address Hilo’s aging education infrastructure and explore new ways to develop the city after taking office.

“There’s a lot of things on the horizon,” Todd said. “I want to figure out how to develop Hilo responsibly.”

In District 3, which encompasses other parts of Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown and Puna, three-term Rep. Richard Onishi was on the brink of a fourth term with 3,317 votes, or 78 percent, leaving Libertarian challenger Fred Fogel with 773 votes, or 22 percent.

“I think the numbers are indicative of my support,” Onishi said, adding that the state’s high amount of early voters appeared likely to secure the win.

Finally, David Tarnas, who served as representative of North Kona and South Kohala from 1994-98, seemed likely to return to office as District 7 representative, having secured 3,690 votes, or 77 percent, a solid lead over his sole challenger, Republican Tom Belekanich, who had won 1,087 votes, or 23 percent.

“I think this was a mandate to doing things differently,” said Tarnas, who earlier this year defeated eight-term Democratic incumbent Cindy Evans. “People voted for a change in the status quo.”

The Big Island’s remaining four seats in the state House of Representatives saw Democratic candidates run uncontested, leaving the party to sweep the field by default.

Incumbent Mark Nakashima, who has represented District 1 — which encompasses Hamakua, North Hilo and portions of South Hilo — for five terms, won his sixth term by default after facing no challenger in the general election.

Likewise, Richard Creagan won his third term as representative of District 5 — including Naalehu, Captain Cook, Ocean View and Kailua-Kona — without any opposition.

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In District 4, Joy San Buenaventura won her third term as representative of Puna with no contest either in the general or the primary elections. Similarly, Nicole Lowen won a fourth term as representative of District 6 — which includes North Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa and Honokohau — without any opponents in either election.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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