Still in the race: Two County Council seats remain undecided

  • Ikaika Rodenhurst

  • Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder

  • Heather Kimball

  • Yagong

While the primary election settled most of the County Council races last month, two seats remain in question heading into the Nov. 3 general election.

The open District 1 seat representing Hamakua attracted a crowded field. The seat is currently held by Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, who is term-limited. Now it’s down to a former incumbent and a politically active challenger.

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Dominic Yagong was the District 1 council member for six years beginning in 1996, then sat out a two-year term, returning for six more years in 2006, including a tenure as council chairman. He stresses his experience, saying the uncertain times need an experienced hand at the stern.

“We have challenging times ahead for our entire island and if given the opportunity, my past governmental and current business experience will allow me to hit the ground sprinting,” he said.

Heather Kimball holds a master’s degree in environmental science and owns a consulting firm focused on land management, carbon mitigation and climate change adaption policy. She’s run unsuccessfully in the past two elections for state House and Senate.

“We need to focus on sustainably balancing the needs of our community with the limits of our resources,” she said. “Instead of relying on tourist dollars that come in on planes, pass through our community and go right back out for imported goods and services, we need to keep those dollars circulating in our community by supporting local agriculture, improving the permitting process and providing infrastructure for locally owned businesses.”

In Puna’s District 5, Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder is the freshman incumbent. Kanealii-Kleinfelder, an electrical project manager and small business owner, also cites his experience handling his dual roles as essential in rebuilding the economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the major health and economic issue facing the County of Hawaii. The reality is that revenues will be significantly decreased over the next 12-18 months,” he said. “Our county suffered a $40 million shortfall. This will have a dramatic effect on county programs and our way of life. My experience as a business owner and council member will bring strength to the council seat for Puna and our county.”

Challenger Ikaika Rodenhurst is a civil engineer and construction consultant for county and state highway projects. He’s been endorsed by the Hawaii Government Employees Association, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, UA Local 675 plumbers and pipefitters and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“I want to do what’s best for the community. … It’s not anything personal against Matt,” Rodenhurst said. “I think I’m the best person for the job. I’m willingto work with anyone and everyone to do what’s right for Puna and what’s right for the county.”

Council members are elected to two-year terms in the nonpartisan single-member-district elections.

Incumbents held onto their seats in the districts that have already been decided, except for a political newcomer filling the District 8 North Kona seat held by Karen Eoff, who is term limited.

In that district, Holeka Inaba defeated Bo Kahui. 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 South Kona/Ka‘u 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.

Also unopposed was freshman Puna District 4 Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz.

Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, also a freshman, kept her District 7 Kona seat by beating challenger Jane Clement.

Incumbent Tim Richards defeated both Phillip “Ippy” Aiona and Ranae Keane for the County Council District 9 seat. 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.

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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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