Four years ago, Billy Kenoi said he heard Hawaii Island residents’ request for a more visible, reachable county administration.
Kenoi’s strategy — stationing cabinet members in Kona, hosting community meetings around the island and pushing for road projects in West Hawaii — may have paid off in Tuesday’s General Election — Kenoi didn’t lose a single precinct to his former boss, Harry Kim, in North Kona, North Kohala or South Kohala. The more populous areas of South Kona also went his way, according to an analysis of precinct-by-precinct results.
“The time I spent in West Hawaii, I had leaders in West Hawaii, people appreciated that commitment we made,” Kenoi said Wednesday. “We said we were going to do it, and we followed through.”
Kenoi edged out Kim by fewer than 1,500 votes.
Kim’s history as Hawaii County Civil Defense director likely gave him the advantage over Kenoi in Puna, as did Kim’s public questioning of Hawaii County’s commitment to expanding geothermal energy production, Kenoi said.
This year’s election results, which included several other county races with margins as close as in the mayoral contest, should serve as a reminder to county voters that every vote counts, Kenoi said. About 60 percent of the county’s 104,000 registered voters, or 63,000 people, cast ballots in the General Election.
Kenoi’s largest margin of victory came in North Kona, where, in state House District 6, he took 60 percent of ballots cast at precincts in Holualoa, Kahakai Elementary, Kekuaokalani Gym, Kealakehe High School and the Kona Palisades Community Center. Kenoi got 4,824 votes in the sixth district, compared with Kim’s 3,150.
In state House District 7, which includes portions of North Kona and all of North Kohala and South Kohala, Kenoi got 5,126 votes to Kim’s 3,775, or 58 percent of the ballots cast. Kenoi took 53 percent of the votes in state House District 5, which runs from Keauhou to western Ka‘u, although he won only three precincts there: Konawaena Elementary School, Konawaena High School and Kona Vistas Recreation Center. Those precincts gave him 4,413 votes to Kim’s 3,933 votes, which Kim garnered from the five remaining precincts, Naalehu, Ocean View Community Center, Milolii, Hookena and St. Benedict Catholic Church.
Kenoi and Kim split portions of Hilo, with Kenoi carrying the precincts at Ernest B. DeSilva Elementary School, Kaumana Elementary School, Edith Kanakaole Multipurpose Stadium, Keaukaha Elementary, Waiakea Elementary and Waiakea High School. Kenoi took 53 percent of the ballots in state House District 2, with 5,185 votes to Kim’s 4,526. Kim took the precinct at Hilo High School in that district.
The two candidates also split House District 3, which includes parts of South Hilo, upper Puna and eastern Ka‘u, with Kenoi prevailing with 53 percent of the vote there, 4,094 votes to Kim’s 3,629. Kenoi won the precinct at Ka‘u High School, his only victory in that district, and at the AJA Memorial Hall in Hilo. Kim won the precincts at Keaau High School, Mountain View Elementary School and the Cooper Center in Volcano.
Kim was strong in Puna, an area he carried in the August primary election, and took most of Hamakua, possibly the result of former mayoral candidate Dominic Yagong throwing his support behind the former two-term mayor after Yagong failed to advance from the primary election. Kim won every precinct in state House District 4. Those precincts voted at Hawaiian Paradise Park’s community center, Keonopoko Elementary School in Pahoa and the Pahoa Community Center.
In state House District 1, which includes Hamakua, North Hilo and portions of South Hilo, Kim won the precincts at Honokaa High School, Paauilo Elementary School, Papaaloa Gym, Honohina Hongwanji in Ninole, Kulaimano Community Center, Kalanianaole Elementary and Intermediate School and the Puueo Multi-Cultural Center.