They’re off and running.
Candidates for local, state and federal office streamed into county elections offices Monday morning, the opening day for candidates to pull nomination papers to begin the filing process.
In all, 10 candidates made it through the roughly 30-minute process between 8 and 10 a.m. By the end of the day, 12 candidates were processed in Hilo and six in Kona.
Candidate filing continues through June 2. The field for most races will be winnowed down in the Aug. 8 primary. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in a county race, the top two contenders will face off in a runoff in the Nov. 3 general election. Elections will be conducted with mail-in ballots this year, extending the voting period.
First in line after the 7:45 a.m. office opening in Hilo was state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, a Democrat representing Puna’s District 4. Two other early filers, Hope Cermelj and Brian Ley, hope to unseat her.
The County Council District 1 seat, an open seat as Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter is term-limited, is also drawing a lot of interest. Two candidates — Bethany Morrison and Elroy Juan — pulled nomination papers Monday, while a third candidate, Heather Kimball, has also announced her intentions for the nonpartisan seat.
Both Morrison and Juan are first-time candidates.
“This is one island. We can be sustainable,” said Juan, a former plantation worker who’s now an irrigation worker with the state Department of Agriculture.
Among the solutions are to grow food to feed the island, as well as increase recycling and solar and other alternative energy sources, he said.
“Hawaii can be sustainable to show the rest of the world,” Juan said.
Morrison said she’s been a planner here for 12 years.
“I’ve had a lot of communication with the public in the course of my work and mostly it’s about working families and our families needing better support,” Morrison said.
Others pulling papers for council seats Monday morning were Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, seeking reelection to her District 3 seat, and William Halversen, seeking election to the Council District 2 seat currently held by Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung.
Council members can serve four two-year terms before they’re term-limited.
Abolghassem Abraham Sadegh pulled nomination papers to run for mayor. Sadegh is the first to file, but not the first to announce their candidacy for the four-year nonpartisan seat. Wendell Kaehuaea, a Hilo security guard, announced his candidacy a year ago.
More recently, county Prosecutor Mitch Roth announced he’s running. Former Kailua-Kona restaurateur Tante Urban, who’s editor and president of the Maui newspaper, Fil-Am Voice, has also announced his candidacy.
Mayor Harry Kim, who’s eligible to run for another four-year term under term limits laws, hasn’t said whether he’s going to run. Kim, 80, has said he wants to retire, but he also wants to be sure the county will be in good hands. He couldn’t be reached by press-time Monday.
Other candidates pulling nomination papers early were Larry Kawaauhau, running for an at-large seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, and Bart Gottschulk, running for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Tulsi Gabbard.
Gottschulk is running as a Republican for the seat that Democratic state Sen. Kai Kahele, of Hilo, has announced intentions for.
“I think everything is in a shambles because of corruption,” Gottschulk said. “I’m a corruption-buster.”
Kawaauhau said he’s running for OHA because he does’t see the state board using its resources to help its constituents.
“I want to help everybody who that office is supposed to be helping,” he said.
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 and federal races. In addition, candidates must pay filing fees ranging from $25 to $500, depending on the race and whether they agree to abide by the state’s voluntary campaign expenditure limits in order to receive a discounted filing fee.