HILO — Meet the new boss — same as the old boss.
The lyrics from the classic Who song will ring true in Hawaii County this year, no matter which of the top two mayoral candidates prevails in the Nov. 6 General Election.
With all 43 precincts reporting Saturday night, Mayor Billy Kenoi was leading in his bid for re-election, followed by former Mayor Harry Kim, Kenoi’s old boss. Kenoi had 17,549 votes, or 43.2 percent, compared to Kim’s 14,084 votes, or 34.7 percent. Also running were Dominic Yagong, with 7,932 votes, or 19.6 percent, Share Christie, with 480 votes, or 1.2 percent, Daniel Cunningham, with 321 votes or 0.8 percent and Rand “Baker Tom” Walls, with 213 votes, or 0.5 percent.
The winner needed 50 percent plus one vote to prevail without a runoff.
Kenoi, powered by almost half a million dollars to spend on his campaign, made his presence known on the Big Island. His trademark light-blue signs and T-shirts were everywhere. Most of the labor unions backed him and a last-minute direct mail campaign promised more jobs and a revitalized economy.
Kenoi also had the Mayor’s Office at his disposal, and a flurry of well-timed groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings and blessings graced both his official mayoral and campaign websites.
“We look forward to taking our message out to the voters again, and we’ll continue to run a very positive campaign,” said Kenoi, returning after the third printout from celebrating with his West Hawaii campaign volunteers, and heading to his Hilo campaign headquarters.
Kim, with less than $10,000 to spend, concentrated on small “hire Harry” ads in the help-wanted sections of area newspapers, as well as radio spots, where island listeners are likely to remember his voice as that of the former director of Civil Defense before he became mayor in 2000. He took no campaign contributions of more than $10.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that we haven’t narrowed the gap,” said Kim. “Either way, there will be a battle in the general.”
Kim wouldn’t speculate on whether Yagong’s voters were more likely to come to his or Kenoi’s side.
Yagong, the chairman of the Hawaii County Council, also lagged in the money race, accumulating about $29,000 over the campaign. After what some saw as negative campaigning when Yagong attacked Kenoi’s policies at debates, Yagong was all about statesmanship Friday night at the Hawaii Democratic Party Grand Rally in Hilo, throwing away his prepared remarks and energizing the crowd with a series of rousing cheers for Democrats.
He said Saturday night he’ll meet with his supporters before making a decision about endorsing one of his opponents come Nov. 6.
“Right now, my focus is going to be on supporting Chelsea,” Yagong said about his daughter, who was likely heading to a runoff for the District 1 Hamakua seat he is vacating.