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Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi slipped past former Mayor Harry Kim in the race for the Big Island mayor.
With all precincts reporting, Kenoi prevailed with 50 percent to 48 percent over the man who once was his mentor.
But for about a half hour last night, Kenoi’s victory wasn’t so clear. When he second round of results showed the two competitors virtually tied at 49 percent, Kim said he felt hopeful about his chances.
The final round of results proved him wrong, reminding the former football coach of his coaching days.
“When you lose a game, especially one that’s a tight game — and this election was a tight game — you hurt,” Kim said. “You don’t hurt for yourself but you hurt for the boys on your team because you know how they feel.”
Kim said he felt as though he let down members of his campaign, a completely grassroots effort that eschewed corporate donations.
Civil Beat was unable to reach Kenoi for a comment.
Kenoi, who has been mayor since 2008, vastly outraised and outspent Kim throughout the election.
Kenoi’s latest campaign spending report — which covers the period from the primary through Oct. 22 — showed that he spent about $600,000 total this election.
Kim spent less than two percent of that — just $13,781, according to his most recent report.
With two weeks to go before the election, Kim was $4,000 in the hole, while Kenoi had about $20,000 in the bank.
Kim previously told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that he would not accept corporate contributions or donations of more than $10.
Kenoi’s benefactors include members of the construction industry and the financial industry.
Much like the Honolulu mayoral race centered on the issue of rail, the race between Kenoi and Kim revolved around the development of geothermal energy.
Kim, who is 72 years old, retired from public office in 2008, leaving the management of the county to 43-year-old Kenoi, his protégé.
But concerns about how the state was handling geothermal energy development motivated Kim to re-enter politics.
Kim warned the state environmental council in May that geothermal exploration was a “money machine” and that development should consider environmental consequences more seriously.
Despite the parallels to the Honolulu race, the Big Island mayoral contest has been marked more by aloha than by negative campaigning.
Kim told Civil Beat that now the election is over, he is unsure what role he will play in Big Island politics, but hopes to remain involved with the issues he campaigned on.
This year’s voters also threw their support behind statewide ballot measures.
The first proposed constitutional amendment, H.B. 2594, helps dam and reservoir owners by letting them benefit from the state’s sale of special purpose revenue bonds.
The amendment passed by 49 percent to 40 percent of the vote.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources supported the constitutional amendment, saying it would ultimately improve public safety and water quality by helping to bring dams and reservoirs up to standards.
In a story in the Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii’s sole Republican Sen. Sam Slom characterized the amendment as an issue of “safety vs. private owner responsibility”, saying that it would force taxpayers to pay costs that are currently the responsibility of dam and reservoir owners.
The second ballot measure, S.B. 650, allows the chief justice of the Supreme Court to let some judges continue to serve for three-month appointments after age 70, when they are forced to retire.
The measure gained 50 percent of the vote, with 40 percent of voters opposing it.
The state Judiciary testified on behalf of the measure, saying that it would allow experienced judges to mentor younger judges.
Critics have said that the amendment allows judges to “double dip” into state coffers.