Incumbent Rebecca Villegas easily defeats challenger to retain County Council seat

Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas was elected to a second two-year term, easily defeating her well-financed challenger in Saturday’s primary election.

Villegas, as of the 7:16 p.m. first of two printouts, had garnered 57.4% or 3,047 votes to Clement’s 2,258 votes with all ballots counted, including those received Friday and cast Saturday.

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Reached via phone Saturday evening, Villegas said she was both humbled and excited for the opportunity to continue serving her constituents spanning across the North Kona District.

“I am deeply grateful and humbled by the support of our community, and I very much look forward to continuing to learn and grow with our community,” Villegas said. “We have still have a lot of trials and tribulations ahead of us as we navigate our way through this health crisis and economic crisis, but I truly believe that by supporting, collaborating, connecting and participating with one another, we can and will find the solutions and a path to resilience and recover and a circular economy.”

During her second term, Villegas said she will continue to her push of legislation banning the use of herbicides on county-owned and maintained property on the Big Island.

“I recognize, I value and I still see the importance of herbicide legislation getting passed,” she said, noting the hundreds of people who testified on controversial Bill 101, which the Hawaii County Council passed before it was vetoed by Mayor Harry Kim, and failed to be overridden by the council. “I’ve done some work on that piece of legislation to make the improvements that were recommended by the last administration, and I hope to bring that back in a capacity and get that passed.”

But with so much unknown amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, Villegas said she knows she must be able to quickly adapt.

“It’s one of those things like they say, ‘life is what happens when you made other plans.’ So, I could have lots of things that I think I am going to work on, but, lately, life has had lots of other plans,” she said. “Being able to connect, to fall forward, to listen, to ask question and make decisions with courage and integrity is what I look forward to doing again in the next two years.”

Clement was unable to be reached for comment as of press-time Saturday.

She’s the former president of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District and chairwoman of the Government Affairs Committee of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. Clement also was legislative assistant for almost five years to former Hawaii County Council Chairman Dru Kanuha and is now a community consultant.

Hawaii County Council District 7 includes part of Kealakekua, Kona Scenic Subdivision, Kainaliu, Honalo, Keauhou, Kahaluu, Holualoa, Kona Hillcrest, Pualani Estates, Sunset View, Kuakini Heights, Kona Vistas, Alii Heights, Kona Industrial and Lono Kona.

Hawaii County Council members currently are limited to four two-year terms. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in a county race, the top two contenders face off in the general election.

In other Hawaii County Council races:

• Political newcomer Holeka Inaba defeated Bo Kahui for the County Council District 8 seat being vacated by term-limited Karen Eoff. Holeka garnered 60.7% of votes cast, or 3,229 votes, to Kahui’s 2,085 as of the first printout. The North Kona Council District 8 runs from Mauna Lani Drive and Queen Kaahumanu Highway south along the coast to Old Mamalahoa Trail north of Kailua-Kona, and extends east to the Pohakuloa Training Area boundary. It includes Kailua View Estates, Malulani Gardens, Hualalai Farms, Keopu Mauka, Kona Heights, Kealakehe, Honokohau, Kaloko, Kohanaiki, Kalaoa, Keahole, Makalei, Makalawena, Puuanahulu and Waikoloa Beach Resort.

• Incumbent Tim Richards defeated both Phillip “Ippy” Aiona and Ranae Keane for the County Council District 9 seat garnering 3,475 votes, or 53.8% of votes cast to Aiona’s 2,469 and Keane’s 515 votes. District 9 includes Mauna Lani Resort, Waikoloa Village, Puako, Waikii, parts of Waimea, Puukapu Farms, Puukapu Homesteads, Puukapu Village House Lots, Lualai, Puuopelu, Lalamilo, Waiaka, Kawaihae, Kohala Ranch, Mahukona, Hawi, Kapaau and Halaula.

“I know we have a great turnout … I’m really proud of our county for participating. It’s looking very strong. I think we’ve communicated our message … I’m very optimistic but I’m waiting for all the returns to come in,” Richards said following the first printout.

• Incumbent South Kona Councilwoman Maile David was unopposed, thus winning her fourth and final term on representing District 6, which includes Volcano Village, Hawaiian Orchid Island Estates, Pahala, Punaluu, Naalehu, South Point, Ocean View, Milolii, Hookena, Honaunau, Keei, Napoopoo, Captain Cook, part of Kealakekua, Keopuka Heights, Kona Hospital and Keopuka Kai.

• Longtime councilman and former County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong will face Heather Kimball in the Nov. 3 general election after garnering just 36.9% of the vote with 2,173 votes. The District 1 seat representing Hamakua is currently held by Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, who is term-limited.

• In District 2, Council Chairman Aaron Chung of Hilo ran for re-election, besting challenger William Halversen with 88.6% of the votes cast.

• Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy was re-elected to her District 3 seat garnering 57.3% of votes cast to defeat Henry Kaaihue and Paul Neves.

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• Incumbent Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder is headed to a runoff with challenger Ikaika Rodenhurst. Kanealii-Kleinfelder received 46.9% of votes cast to Rodenhurst’s 41.7%.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter Stephanie Salmons contributed to this report.

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