KAILUA-KONA — Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye, who represents North Hawaii in the state Senate, defeated challenger Heather Kimball in Saturday night’s Democratic primary.
Because no other party fielded candidates in the race for the Senate District 4 seat, Saturday’s primary decides the election.
“There’s so many things we need to address on Hawaii Island,” Inouye said Saturday night when reached by phone. “And I’m just happy that I’ll get back in and make sure that we have our fair share.”
District 4 spans the northern part of the island from Keahole Point in the west to Honolii in the east and north to encompass communities like Hawi and the Hamakua Coast.
Inouye was challenged in the primary by Kimball, of Papaikou, who is a planning consultant, scientist and former Sierra Club chairwoman.
Saturday evening, when early and absentee vote counts came in, Inouye grabbed the lead over Kimball with a margin of fewer than 600 votes over the challenger.
At press time, Inouye led by under 900 votes. With eight of 12 precincts reporting, she held 52.8 percent of the vote compared to Kimball’s 42.1 percent.
Inouye was most recently elected to the seat in 2014, and previously served in the Senate from 1998-2008. She was also mayor of Hawaii County from 1990-92.
In the most recent legislative session, she chaired the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy.
The incumbent thanked her supporters throughout the district and Kimball for running a “nice, good race.”
Inouye said there are challenging times ahead as officials look to relief for communities affected by the eruption.
Next week, she said the Hawaii Island delegation will be meeting with county administrators to identify a plan and what’s needed of lawmakers on the state level.
“The Legislature will not go into special session without a full commitment and a budget that we can live with,” she said.
Inouye said Senate leadership is determined that county officials talk to the island’s delegation “before they even talk about holding a special session.”
Kimball said Saturday evening she was proud of the campaign she and her team had run.
While she said she’s not yet sure what the future holds for her, she’s not unplugging from community engagement.
“I think if anything I’m more inspired than ever to keep being an advocate for our community, and I’ve found this process extremely rewarding” she said.
Kimball credited the work of her team, who she said “gave it their all” and that she was proud of the campaign they ran.
As the challenger in the race, she said, she believes her campaign “brought a lot of new ideas to the conversation,” and that she hopes Inouye will consider looking to her for what she can offer.
“And I’m absolutely happy to share what I’ve learned and the ideas that I can bring to the table to help her be successful in her next term,” she added.