Friday, Sept. 22, 2023|
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Two incumbent County Council candidates from Puna were reelected Saturday based on mail-in ballots.
During the primary election, Ashley Kierkiewicz secured 72.5%, or 2,854 votes, and will retain her position as council member for the District 4. Her opponent, Gregory Lum Ho Jr., received just 1,081 votes.
District 4 includes the areas of Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaiian Beaches, makai of Pahoa town, Nanawale Estates, Leilani Estates, Pohoiki and Kapoho.
Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder secured 74%, or 2,825 votes and will remain councilman for District 5. He defeated his opponent Desmon Haumea, who received 992 votes.
District 5 includes W.H. Shipman Industrial Park, 9 1/2 mile Camp, Keaau Ag Lots, Kurtistown, Mountain View, Glenwood, Orchidland Estates, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Acres, Fern Acres, Eden Roc, Fern Forest Estates, mauka of Pahoa town, Kaohe Homesteads, Kamaili Homesteads, Kalapana, Opihikao, Kehena and Kaimu.
“It’s been a big learning experience for me being on the council, and I really do look forward to the upcoming two years,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “Going forward, I’ll continue to make people-first policy and my decisions are always based on what I truly believe is what’s best for the people of Hawaii Island and Hawaii County. I’m very much humbled by the vote and by the turnout this year.”
Kierkiewicz previously served as a staff assistant for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka in 2009 and was first elected to District 4 in 2018.
Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder is from Puna, and during his first term, he assisted with eruption recovery, increased Puna’s police patrol by 10 positions, helped secure grants for individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, and helped build a skatepark in Kurtistown.
“I really do appreciate my opponent,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “It was a good race, it was clean, it was positive, there wasn’t any bad campaigning between the two of us.”
His plans for the future focus on addressing Puna’s growth.
“I think one of the biggest issues we face here in Puna is just the tremendous … amount of people moving into Puna. We’re having some serious growing pains,” he said. “Besides the things that come up, my legislation is going to be based on how to better help Puna deal with the massive amount of population growth we’re having right now. That’s going to be the key.”
Kierkiewicz could not be reached for comment in time for publication.
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