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Kahele, Kanuha cruise to victories in state Senate races

State Sen. Kai Kahele, a Hilo Democrat, was poised to win his bid for re-election to District 1 Tuesday against Hilo Libertarian Kimberly Arianoff.

Kahele was ahead significantly, with 12,316 votes compared to Arianoff’s 1,771, with all precincts reporting.

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“I’m just very grateful and thankful for the voters of Hilo for their trust and confidence to allow me to continue to represent Hilo in the state Senate,” he said. “For me, it’s a little bittersweet, because I was with my dad in 2014 when he won the four-year term to represent Hilo.”

After his father Gil Kahele’s death, Kai Kahele, 44, was appointed to the seat for about six months in 2016 and had to run for election to complete the remaining two years of his dad’s term.

While it’s bittersweet, Kahele said at the same time, “it’s a very special moment” to continue to serve Hilo in the Senate and sit in his father’s seat.

“For me, having been in the Senate for three sessions now, but returning in the 2019 (session) for what will be a full four-year term, I’m really looking forward to it, and looking forward to continuing to work hard and do great things for Hilo, East Hawaii and Hawaii Island.”

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

County Councilman Dru Kanuha also was headed for victory against Libertarian Michael Last in the race for the District 3 state Senate seat, which currently is held by Sen. Josh Green, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

“I’m extremely excited,” Kanuha, 34, said shortly after the first returns were released. “I’m honored for the support of our residents and our community from Kona all the way to Naalehu. It’s been a long campaign race, and I’m very much looking forward, hopefully at the end of the night, to represent this district at the state Legislature.”

With all precincts reporting, Kanuha had 9,926 votes, compared to Last’s 2,529.

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

Kanuha, of Kailua-Kona, said he has been on County Council for three terms and had served as chairman for one term, but this is his first time running for a state seat.

In the final Big Island state Senate race, incumbent and political veteran state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, 74, of Paukaa, was unopposed Tuesday for her District 4 seat.

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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.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.