Ikaika Marzo, a Puna tour operator who became a social media phenomenon during the monthslong 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano, is running for mayor.
The 36-year-old Marzo, president of Kalapana Cultural Tours, announced his candidacy Sunday on Facebook, a platform that drew him a large following with live lava video updates. Many of those updates were posted while at the helm of a tour boat against a backdrop of lava entering the ocean along the Puna coastline.
“Yes, I am excited to announce that I am pursuing the position of Mayor of Hawai‘i County because I feel I can make a positive difference for the people. ALL the people who dwell upon our Big Island — from Kohala to Ka‘u, Hilo to Kona, Waimea to Puna, Volcano to YOUR own community — come first. I will be IKAIKA (strong) for the people as I have strived to be my whole life, and although I have been in various leadership positions, I will be new at this. I look forward to releasing more information about my platform and plans in the coming week. Together, we can do remarkable things to improve the Big Island, and I’m excited to listen and work with you to better our island home. Let’s ‘talk story’!” Marzo posted.
Although Marzo has never before run for an elective office, he is one of the better-known individuals who has announced intentions to seek the county’s highest office.
Marzo and several others formed Pu‘uhonua O Puna, a grassroots community center known as “the hub” — which was located at the corner of Highways 130 and 132 across from Pahoa High School. The center, which was operated by volunteers on community donations, served meals and distributed emergency items to those displaced or otherwise affected by the lava, which destroyed more than 700 homes and structures in lower Puna.
A Pahoa High School alum, Marzo also is a slack-key guitarist, member of the Kalapana Awa Band and volleyball player who was head coach of his high school alma mater from 2006 to 2012. He served as spokesman for an ad hoc group of fisherman advocating the restoration of the Pohoiki boat ramp in lower Puna, which was landlocked by a newly formed black sand and cobblestone beach during the eruption.
He also was among the protesters — who call themselves kia‘i, or protectors — who have thus far thwarted the start of construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea.
Marzo, who has pulled nomination papers but has not yet filed them, enters a crowded nonpartisan race for Hawaii County’s chief executive. As of Monday, 13 had either filed or pulled nomination papers.
Those who have filed include:
• Mitch Roth, 55, Hawaii County prosecutor since 2012.
• Bob Fitzgerald, 67, former director and deputy director of Parks and Recreation in the administration of former Mayor Billy Kenoi.
• Kelly Greenwell, former North Kona County Council member, and a farmer and nurseryman.
• Grayden K. Ha‘i-Kelly, a musician and entertainer who also works at two Kona-area resorts.
• James “Jiro” Yuda, 44, a former deputy public defender and currently an attorney in Family Law Division of the state Department of the Attorney General.
• Mike Ruggles, 63, a longtime marijuana advocate and activist who was found not guilty by a jury in November of running an unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary.
Those who have pulled nomination papers but have not yet filed include:
• Wendell Ka‘ehu‘ae‘a, 77, a Hilo security guard and perennial candidate for more than a decade.
• Abolghassem Abraham Sadegh, a former government official in Iran and frequent testifier at County Council meetings.
• Tante Urban, a former Kailua-Kona restaurateur who’s taken a leave of absence from the Maui newspaper, Fil-Am Voice.
• Ted Shaneyfelt, a lecturer in computer science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
• Daniel Cunningham, who ran unsuccessfully for County Council District 5 in 2014.
• Harvey Eli, 65, a Kona resident who identifies himself as a subject of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Candidate filing runs through June 2, with the field to be narrowed the Aug. 8 primary. Any candidate who gets 50% plus one vote wins the election outright. If no candidate garners more than 50% of the vote, the top two contenders will face off in a runoff in the Nov. 3 general election.
Mayor Harry Kim, 80, who’s eligible to run for another four-year term under term limits laws, hasn’t yet said whether he intends to seek re-election.
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