HILO — And, they’re off!
The 2018 election season kicked off in earnest Thursday morning with the beginning of candidate filing.
Three candidates were at the Elections Office in Hilo shortly after it opened, beginning the filing process by pulling nomination papers.
Among them were eager freshman County Council members Tim Richards, of Kohala, and Sue Lee Loy, representing Hilo.
Both said they are seeking re-election to the two-year nonpartisan seats to continue work they’ve started.
“For years, I’ve advised on policy issues at both the state and national level,” Richards said. “But now, as a policymaker, that’s the difference. I enjoy working to make things better for the community.”
Richards said the job can be “challenging and frustrating” at times, but he wants to keep doing it.
Lee Loy is also interested in keeping her seat. Council members can serve four two-year terms before they’re term-limited.
“I’m working hard and striving to serve the district,” Lee Loy said, “and there’s still more work ahead.”
Although there’s just one open seat on the County Council this year — Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha is running for state Senate — and incumbents have a strong advantage, there may be more candidates this year than usual.
That’s because the Salary Commission recently raised the pay from $58,008 to $77,016 for the council chairman and from $52,008 to $70,008 for council members.
In all, 17 would-be candidates pulled papers Thursday.
In addition to Richards and Lee Loy, Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, South Kona/Kau Councilwoman Maile David and Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles pulled papers to seek re-election.
William Halverson pulled papers to challenge Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung and Richard Abbett seeks to challenge David.
Three candidates pulled papers to run for the open Kona council seat being vacated by Kanuha. They are Bronsten-Glenn Kossow, Cynthia Nazara and Rebecca Villegas.
Kanuha pulled papers as a Democrat for the Senate seat.
“The outpouring of aloha and support since I announced my candidacy in September has been so humbling,” Kanuha said in a statement. “I look forward to the opportunity to serve even more people in our community as senator.”
Aaron Martinson is seeking to run for the Congressional District 2 seat as a nonpartisan, Wendell Kaehuaea intends to run for governor as a Democrat, Heather Kimball is seeking the state Senate District 4 seat as a Democrat, Michael Last pulled to run as a Libertarian for the District 3 state Senate seat and Alvin Akina pulled papers for an at-large seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.
The candidate filing period runs through June 5. Polls open for early voting July 30, with primary election day on Aug. 11.
To qualify for the ballot, candidates must come up with verified signatures of registered voters living within the district — 15 for local races and 25 for statewide races. In addition, candidates must pay filing fees ranging from $75 to $750, depending on the race. Indigent candidates and those agreeing to limit spending get discounts.