The filing deadline to run for public office is still two months away, but that hasn’t stopped 23 candidates from pulling nomination papers or filing for County Council seats.
The nine County Council seats, which are nonpartisan, come up every two years for election. Two council members are term-limited this year, and six are freshmen who will likely seek a second term.
That leaves just one old hand likely to remain on the council, Hilo District 3 Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, who, if he wins re-election, will be in his fourth and final term. The filing deadline is June 3.
So far, no one has pulled papers to file in the District 3 race, according to the end-of-day Friday report from the state Office of Elections. Onishi, who has run unopposed the past two elections, said he pulled his papers Monday.
“I’m just hoping that maybe this election it will happen again,” he said of running unopposed.
The council election is held on the Aug. 9 primary. If a candidate doesn’t receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the primary, the top two candidates go on to the general election, this year to be held Nov. 4.
Freshman Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha, who ran unopposed his first term, so far faces no competition in District 7 for the 2014 election, either. Nor does Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, the District 1 freshman.
Five candidates have pulled papers for the wide-open Hilo District 2 race, where Council Chairman J Yoshimoto is term-limited and can’t run this year. The potential District 2 candidates so far are Aaron Chung, Shane Gali, William J. Halversen, Margarita L. Hopkins and Kerri J. Marks.
Puna Council districts are historically hard on their incumbents, and this year promises to be no exception. Five candidates have pulled papers so far in both District 4 and District 5.
District 4 incumbent Greggor Ilagan, a freshman councilman, said he pulled his papers Monday. So far, Madeline K. Greene and Roy Lozano have filed to run, and Alona Quartero and former Puna Councilman Fred Blas have pulled papers but have not yet filed. Blas, keeping his options open, has also pulled papers for the district’s state representative.
“I’m going through a transition, (balancing) my position on the council and my candidacy,” Ilagan said.
District 5 incumbent Zendo Kern, also a freshman councilman, has been coy about whether he’s running for re-election, and on Friday batted back a direct question on his plans. A crowded field of five has pulled papers in that race, and three candidates have already filed.
One of those is Tiffany Edwards Hunt, Kern’s former campaign chairwoman and an aide to former Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole, as well as a journalist who once worked for Stephens Media Hawaii.
“If the incumbent wants to seek another term, I would like him to come out into the community and let the community know he really wants to do the people’s work,” Hunt said.
Other candidates are Daniel H. Cunningham of Hilo, Henry Meyer Field Jr. of Hilo, Timothy P.N. Law of Pahoa and Frances Pua Pueo of Mountain View.
Some familiar faces are popping up in District 6, where South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford is term-limited and can’t seek re-election.
Fred Fogel of Volcano, who ran unsuccessfully for state House as a Libertarian in 2010 and 2012, has pulled papers. So has Maile Davis, who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2010 and 2012. David has sought an opinion from the Board of Ethics, which meets Wednesday, on whether there would be a conflict for her to keep her position of deputy county clerk while she is a candidate.
The field so far is rounded out by potential candidate Richard Eugene Abbett of Ocean View.
North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, also a freshman, has a potential opponent in District 8 who filed his paperwork on Thursday. Michael Sean Hunter, of Kailua-Kona, said he is a constitutional scholar, a single father with two teenage sons and a “repo man,” who owns his own tow-truck business.
“I believe in protecting our rights and freedoms and our private property, and preserving the way of life we have here in Kona,” Hunter said. “I believe the decisions that are made for Kona and Hawaii County should be made by the people of Hawaii County.”
In District 9, Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille could face Ronald A. Gonzales of Waikoloa and Honokaa. Gonzales, manager of Sansei Restaurant and chairman of the Windward Planning Commission, has pulled papers but hasn’t yet filed for the campaign. He said he would file after resigning from the commission.
“It seemed a natural progression for me,” he said.