Two council races will be decided in November

  • Dominic Yagong

  • Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder

Races for two County Council seats will be decided in runoffs during the Nov. 3 general election.

Longtime former councilman and former County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong led in a crowded race for the District 1 seat representing Hamakua currently held by Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, who is term-limited.

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Yagong received 37% of votes after eliminating blank and “over” votes from the tally in returns posted around 10 p.m. Saturday. He was leading Heather Kimball, who received 28.5%.

If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in a county race, the top two contenders face off in the general election.

Yagong served as Hamakua councilman for six years beginning in 1996 before sitting out a two-year term and returning for six more years in 2006.

He left the position to run for mayor in 2012 but came in third behind former Mayor Billy Kenoi and current Mayor Harry Kim.

Yagong said Saturday evening he was pleased, excited and grateful.

“For me, I’m truly honored to have been on the ballot with six other outstanding candidates,” he said. “These are good people and great leaders. It was an honor to be on the ballot with all of them.”

The economy would be his first priority if elected.

“Many people are struggling and suffering, especially in Council District 1,” he said.

Many people moved into the hotel industry when the sugar plantations closed, and considering the hotels closed because of COVID-19 and the impact on all industries, “it really has been an economic disaster for many folks in our district.”

Although Kimball had previously sought state office, this is her first run for a county seat.

“I think there’s so much that can be done at the county level, particularly now, in response to COVID-19 to build our resilience as a community to make sure all of our community members are taken care of. … I very much look forward to the opportunity to serve on (the council).”

If elected to County Council, Kimball said her immediate priority would be the response to COVID-19 — protecting the health and safety of residents, ensuring the enforcement of quarantine orders, and ensuring that people are getting tested and have access to personal protective equipment.

With seven candidates in the race, both Yagong and Kimball said it was unlikely one candidate would walk away with the required 50% of votes to avoid a runoff.

“I’m looking forward to having future forums with another candidate,” Kimball said. “With everything we’ve done so far, I think we’ve laid a really good groundwork and will build on that for the future of our campaign.”

Also seeking the seat were Elroy Juan, Jaerick Medeiros-Garcia, Jaclyn Moore, Bethany Morrison and Monique Perreira.

In District 5, incumbent Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, who received 46.9% of votes, will face Ikaika Rodenhurst, who received 41.8%, in November.

Kanealii-Kleinfelder did not return a phone call by press time.

Rodenhurst, who said this was his first time venturing into politics, said he was pleased with the results and is hopeful.

“It’s been difficult with COVID-19 and everything to reach the people of Puna,” he said. “ … I’m glad I had been able to reach them … .”

A third candidate, Frederic “Ric” Wirick, received 11.3% of the votes.

In District 2, Council Chairman Aaron Chung of Hilo ran for re-election, besting challenger William Halversen with 88.7% of the votes cast.

Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy will remain in her District 3 seat after besting Henry Kaaihue and Paul Neves with 57.3% of the votes, compared to 20.4% and 22.2%, respectively.

District 4 incumbent Ashley Kierkiewicz and District 6 incumbent Maile David were unopposed in their races and will remain on the council.

Rebecca Villegas received 57.4% of the vote to hold on to her District 7 seat for a second term. Challenger Jane Clement received 42.6%.

“I am deeply grateful and humbled by the support of our community, and I very much look forward to continuing to learn and grow with our community,” Villegas said. “We have still have a lot of trials and tribulations ahead of us as we navigate our way through this health crisis and economic crisis, but I truly believe that by supporting, collaborating, connecting and participating with one another, we can and will find the solutions and a path to resilience and recover and a circular economy.”

During her second term, Villegas said she will continue to her push of legislation banning the use of herbicides on county-owned and maintained property on the Big Island.

Political newcomer Holeka Inaba defeated Bo Kahui for the County Council District 8 seat being vacated by term-limited Karen Eoff. Inaba garnered 60.8% of votes to Kahui’s 39.2%.

Meanwhile, in District 9, incumbent Herbert “Tim” Richards received 53.8% of the vote, while Philip “Ippy” Aiona received 38.2% and Ranae Keane received 8%.

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West Hawaii Today Editor Chelsea Jensen contributed to this story.

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

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