HILO — Legislative aide Karen Eoff stepped easily into her boss’ shoes Saturday, overcoming her sole opponent in the race for the vacant County Council District 8 seat with a decisive 78.7 percent of the vote.
With all precincts reporting, Eoff, with 2,455 votes, bested Charles Guccione, who had 665 votes, for the North Kona district currently represented by her boss, Council Vice Chairman Angel Pilago. There’s no need for a runoff in the two-person race. Guccione, a retired insurance executive, campaigned on a business-like and common-sense approach to government.
Eoff is a longtime community advocate who has worked against development and for parks along the North Kona coastline. She sees herself as a “bridge” between majority and minority council factions.
“I feel very grateful for the voters who came out and supported me,” said Eoff, who was celebrating with family and friends. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had a lot of people telling me I was heading for a win, but you never know.”
The North Kona seat was one of five decided by the end of the primary. In the new Puna District 5, Windward Planning Commission Chairman Zendo Kern won in a three-way race without a trip to the General Election. Incumbent J Yoshimoto also prevailed in his four-way District 2 race.
South Kona Council District 7 newcomer Dru Kanuha and Hilo District 3 incumbent Dennis Onishi were unopposed.
The West Hawaii Districts 6 and 9 races were not so easily secured.
In the newly redistricted sprawling South Kona/Ka‘u District, three-term Councilwoman Brenda Ford led a field of four with 1,997 votes, or 48.1 percent, short of the 50 percent plus one vote needed to succeed without a runoff. She’ll face Maile David, with 1,450 votes, or 34.9 percent. Also pursing the open seat were Bradley Westervelt with 529 votes, or 12.7 percent and Lee McIntosh with 175 votes, or 4.2 percent.
“I’m in a brand-new district and when you have four people running, it’s really hard to win the election in the primary,” Ford said. “I’m grateful that 45-plus percent are pleased with my work and my representation, and I hope we have an even better turnout in the general.”
Ford wants to pursue her plan to put several large capital improvement projects in West Hawaii as a way to improve access to amenities and stimulate employment. David, a legislative specialist, believes an across-the-board, one-time property tax assessment is preferable to employee furloughs as a way to balance the budget.
An equally crowded District 9 race offered up Margaret Wille in the lead for the open Kohala seat with 1,475 votes, or 38.1 percent, putting her into a runoff with Oliver “Sonny” Shimaoka, who had 1,076 votes, or 27.8 percent.
Also in the race were William Sanborn with 867 votes, or 22.4 percent, and Robert Green with 451 votes, or 11.7 percent.
Shimaoka, a pastor and self-styled “island guy,” said he offered a positive alternative to gridlock on the council.
Wille, an attorney, thinks the county should focus on its core areas of responsibility and seek more grant funding, rather than keep trying to do too much with too little.
“All four candidates have worked very hard,” Wille said. “I’m having an amazing time meeting amazing people and connecting groups together. I’ll use this as an opportunity to learn more and become even better qualified.”
District 1, another open seat, representing the Hamakua District, saw Valerie Poindexter with 1,592 votes, or 36.1 percent, heading to a runoff with Chelsea Yagong, who had 1,508 votes, or 34.2 percent. Attorney Jo Kim had 894 votes, or 20.3 percent, followed by Larry Gering with 256 votes, or 5.8 percent and Eric Paul D’Almeida with 163 votes, or 3.7 percent.
The District 2 Hilo seat featured former County Clerk Ken Goodenow challenging his old boss, Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto garnered 3,398 votes, or 54.9 percent, compared to Goodenow’s 1,792 votes or 28.9 percent. Also in the race were Rachel Thompson with 567 votes, or 9.2 percent and county purchasing agent Steve Wilhelm, with 435 votes, or 7 percent.
In Puna District 4, freshman incumbent Councilman Fred Blas had quite the fight on his hands to keep his seat. Blas had 1,521 votes, or 36.5 percent of the vote, and goes to a runoff against Greggor Ilagan with 1,411 votes, or 33.9 percent. James Weatherford had 1,231 votes, or 29.6 percent.
Kern, of District 5, had 2,652 votes, or 74.9 percent. Other contenders were Steven Araujo with 558 votes, or 15.8 percent, and Liscencio Ceredon with 331 votes, or 9.35 percent.
“I’m very, very grateful for the support in so many ways,” Kern said. “I’m thanking all the voters for having all that trust in me. I am so excited.”