HILO — The Yagong name wasn’t enough to win the District 1 County Council seat on Tuesday, as the daughter of Council Chairman Dominic Yagong succumbed to Valerie Poindexter by 1,151 votes.
Poindexter won with 3,834 votes, or 59 percent, of the votes cast to Chelsea Yagong’s 2,683 votes, or 41 percent. Only 93 votes had separated the two in a five-way primary.
“It was a really hard race because I know I was running against good name recognition,” Poindexter said. “But the people have spoken and they want a new kind of government. They’re looking for more grass-roots leadership.”
Both candidates were campaigning full-bore Monday night at the state Democratic Party Grand Rally in Hilo. Poindexter supporters — including her husband and her ex-husband — were decked out in her trademark pink and gray, while Yagong, a former high school cheerleader, led the several hundred in attendance in a rousing cheer for the party.
The redrawn Hamakua District runs from Honokaa Stream on the west to the Wailuku River in Hilo, taking in the towns of Waipio, Honokaa, Paauilo, Laupahoehoe, Honomu, Peepekeo, Papaikou and Paukaa. Dominic Yagong is giving up the seat next month after he lost his bid for mayor in the primary.
Poindexter, 52, of Ookala represented the Hamakua district on the Redistricting Commission that redrew County Council boundary lines following the 2010 census. She works as human resources manager at Hamakua Health Center, is Honokaa Community Association president and serves on the board of the Brantley Center.
Poindexter believes the island needs to do more to be able to support itself, and she wants the council to focus more on each community’s concerns before setting policy. So far, she’s shared little of her actual plans for doing so, however.
Yagong, 26, is a deli clerk and part-time teacher’s aide at Honokaa Elementary School. She’s focused on the need for alternative energy sources and expansion of the Hilo landfill while the county studies alternatives such as waste-to-energy incinerators. That way, the county won’t be rushed into making an unwise and hasty decision, she said.
A single mother, she’s passionate about sustainability and making the island a better place for the next generation.
“This has been such a tremendous experience for me, and I’ve been so blessed with so many people supporting me,” Yagong said. “Running for student council is a lot different than running for County Council.”