HILO — Two Hawaii County Council members and two Big Island statehouse incumbents cruised to early victory this week when no candidates filed to oppose them.
As of the Tuesday filing deadline to appear on the Aug. 11 primary election ballot, Hilo District 3 Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and North Kona District 8 Councilwoman Karen Eoff are unopposed in their bids for the nonpartisan office, according to a report from the state Office of Elections.
Eoff, who is term-limited after this stint, is relieved she doesn’t have to campaign for her final two years.
“It’s been a privilege to represent the people of North Kona for the past three terms and I feel honored knowing I will be serving a fourth and final term on the Hawaii County Council,” Eoff said.
In the state Legislature, District 4 Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, Puna, and District 6 Rep. Nicole Lowen, Kona, both Democrats, face no competition from any party.
“I think my constituents are happy with the work I’m doing, but also I don’t think that whether or not a candidate is unopposed is a measure of the job they are doing. Sometimes it might be but other times there’s no rhyme or reason,” Lowen said. “Either way, I’m going to keep my focus on doing the work I was elected to do for District 6.”
San Buenaventura was especially appreciative of the absence of challengers. She’s been busy helping her district respond to and recover from the lava crisis, and now doesn’t have to take time from that daunting task to campaign.
Thursday, for example, San Buenaventura was in Honolulu, meeting with the Hawaii Department of Transportation and helicopter pilots about noise over Puna and seeking their videos to help homeowners check on the status of their properties. Friday, she met with Gov. David Ige to discuss possible problems he might have with the ohana zones bill, which is needed to help build transitional housing for lava victims.
“I hope the reason I was unopposed is that that even if they disagreed with me on an issue, I hope they believe I am doing a good job overall. Being unopposed allows me to remain focused on helping the community and not be distracted with campaigning,” San Buenaventura said. “There are so many people who want to help. Being able to connect them with the right people and funding raw materials can go a long way towards rebuilding our community.”
The unopposed candidates will still appear on the primary ballot and will be deemed elected after the election, under the county charter and state law.
Of the three state Senate races on the ballot this year, one will be decided in the Democratic primary, where North Hawaii District 4 incumbent Sen. Lorraine Inouye is being challenged by Heather Kimball.
District 1 Hilo Sen. Kai Kahele has no opposition within the Democratic Party, so his campaign moves to the Nov. 6 general election, where he faces off against Libertarian candidate Kimberly Arianoff.
The big Senate ballot fight is the open Kona District 3 seat vacated by Sen. Josh Green, who is running for lieutenant governor. Former County Council colleagues Dru Kanuha and Brenda Ford will have it out in the Democratic primary, with the winner facing Libertarian Michael Last in the general election.
In the other House races, North Hawaii District 1 incumbent Rep. Mark Nakashima faces a challenge in the Democratic primary from Koohan Paik-Mander, with the winner taking the seat.
Both Democrats and Republicans are lining up to challenge Hilo District 2 incumbent Rep. Chris Todd, a political neophyte Gov. David Ige appointed last year to the seat vacated by the late Rep. Clift Tsuji.
Todd is encountering his first election, facing Terri Napeahi in the Democratic primary. The winner will appear on the general election ballot with either Bryan Feste or Grace Manipol-Larson, depending on which wins the Republican primary.
Hilo District 3 Rep. Richard Onishi has competition among both Democrats and Republicans as well. Onishi squares off in the Democratic primary against Raina Whiting, with the winner facing Libertarian Fred Fogel in the general election.
Ka‘u District 5 incumbent Rep. Richard Creagan faces two challengers in the Democratic primary: Jeanne Kapela and Gene “Bucky” Leslie. The primary winner takes the seat, as no other parties fielded a candidate.
There’s a rematch in the Kohala-Kona House District 7 Democratic primary, where incumbent Rep. Cindy Evans is again challenged by former Rep. David Tarnas, who came within 176 votes of beating her in 2016. The winner of the primary faces Republican Tom Belekanich in the general.
In the council races, Hamakua District 1 Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter is being challenged by political newcomer Abolghassem Sadegh, a frequent testifier at council meetings. District 2 Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung is again challenged by William Halversen, whom Chung handily beat in 2016 with 4,293 votes to Halversen’s 243 in a three-way contest.
Puna’s two council incumbents also face challengers. District 4 Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara faces Ashley Kierkiewicz, and District 5 Councilwoman Jen Ruggles faces Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder and Frederic Ric Wirick.
South Kona/Ka‘u District 6 incumbent Councilwoman Maile David also faces challengers. Richard Abbett is seeking a rematch after losing to David in 2014 with 604 votes to David’s 2,170 votes in a three-way race. Also running for the seat this year is Yumi Kawano.
The open Council Kona District 7 seat, vacated by Kanuha in his state Senate bid, has drawn four hopefuls: Kelly Drysdale, Bronsten (Kalei) Kossow, Cyntheia Nazara and Rebecca (Shute) Villegas.
Kohala District 9 incumbent Councilman Herbert (Tim) Richards faces challenger Maya Parish.
Also on the Big Island primary ballots are a dozen candidates for U.S. Senate, including incumbent Sen. Mazie Hirono, and four candidates for 2nd Congressional District, including incumbent U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.