Long-time Hilo pollster predicts Kim-Lau runoff

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HILO — It may not be the most scientific survey, but George Yokoyama said his political polling hasn’t been wrong in the 40 years he’s been doing it.

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HILO — It may not be the most scientific survey, but George Yokoyama said his political polling hasn’t been wrong in the 40 years he’s been doing it.

Yokoyama’s latest poll, mailed to 3,000 Big Island households in early June, showed former Mayor Harry Kim leading former county Managing Director Wally Lau by double digits, Yokoyama confirmed this week.

Yokoyama, who’s turning 90 this month, didn’t disclose other details about the poll, other than to say that most of those returning the poll were over 45 years old.

Yokoyma predicted a runoff between Kim and Lau in the general election. County candidates must get more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the Aug. 13 primary election to avoid a runoff in November.

He plans to do another survey before the general election.

“Everybody knows Harry, but not everybody likes Harry,” Yokoyama said.

Kim was the mayor for eight years, after serving a decade before that as the voice of Hawaii County Civil Defense on the radio.

“First of all, not everybody knows everybody,” Kim responded. “And, obviously, I accept that about people liking me. Some do and some don’t.”

Lau most recently served as Mayor Billy Kenoi’s right-hand man, as managing director stationed in Kona.

With most of his work behind the scenes, Lau acknowledged he’s been waging a battle to get his name out there.

“When I first went out, people didn’t know who I was,” Lau said. “That’s when we upped it more, for me to get out and meet as many people as possible on this island. … Now, I think they’re having a connection.”

He’s had a lot of help, with his $183,705 in campaign contributions so far this year eclipsing those of the other 12 candidates combined. The amount includes a $25,000 loan to the campaign.

In comparison, Pete Hoffmann, a former County Council member representing Kohala, collected $19,532, with $5,000 his own money, and Kim took in $12,037, of which $8,602 was his own money.

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Other candidates in the crowded field are Marlene Hapai, a science educator and former member of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Wendell Kaehuaea, who may be well-recognized if only because he’s appeared on 21 previous ballots. Then there’s lesser known Alvin Akin Jr., Paul W. Bryant, Daniel Howard Cunningham, Helen Olena Luta, Shannon K.K. McCandless, Gene Tamashiro, Timothy Waugh and Eric Drake Weinert.

Mail-in absentee ballots should already be arriving in Big Island mailboxes after being mailed out Tuesday. Polls open for early voting Aug. 1.

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