Building on a lead that was clear in May, former judge, prosecutor and U.S. attorney Steve Alm is well ahead of his five main competitors for Honolulu prosecutor.

In the latest Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, Alm is favored by 32% of 660 registered voters on Oahu — 11 percentage points higher than he ranked in May when we conducted our last poll.

Former deputy prosecutor Megan Kau has improved from 5% as the choice for those surveyed three months ago to 15%. And public defender Jacquie Esser’s support has jumped from just 2% to 13%.

That means Alm is near certain to advance to the Nov. 3 general election after Saturday’s primary, since a winning candidate needs to earn more than 50% of all votes cast to win the race outright.

Esser and Kau, the only two candidates in the prosecutor’s race who have been running television ads (Alm is advertising heavily on digital and social media), are essentially competing for the second slot.

Other candidates trail far behind.

Dwight Nadamoto, the acting prosecutor, former deputy prosecuting attorney RJ Brown and criminal defense attorney Tae Kim each took 3% of the vote. A seventh candidate, Anosh Yaqoob, was not polled.

More than one-fourth of voters (26%) said they were unsure who they would vote for, while 5% said they preferred none of the candidates running.

Civil Beat conducted the poll with MRG Research from July 27-30 using a combination of interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling) and a survey administered online.

The touch-tone version was conducted by contacting landline telephones. The online version was conducted by texting cellphones and linking poll participants to an online survey optimized for smartphones.

Kim Fenton, an early intervention special education teacher in Kaneohe, said she is supporting Alm. But it is not because he has higher name recognition than the other candidates.

Rather, Fenton did her homework on the candidates, which she said included reading the candidates’ Q&As and news stories on Civil Beat.

“It seemed like he was very interested in integrity and strong ethics, and that’s very important to me,” she said. “Learning about the HOPE program, I feel he is trying to set up programs to help people.”

HOPE, which stands for Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Program, was Alm’s creation.

Steve Alm candidate for Honolulu Prosecutor.
Steve Alm is the leading candidate for Honolulu prosecutor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

“That clinched it for me, because as a person who specializes in supporting children who have behavioral concerns, I know that positive behavioral support is the evidence-based approach to improving behavior. The HOPE program is focused not on punishing problematic behavior but teaching people what to do instead of committing crimes. That jumped right out at me as a teacher.”

Christina Hill, a graduate student studying political science and likely future applicant to law school, is voting for Esser.

“I think I have been, more and more, impressed with the progressive movement as a whole rather than the traditional Democratic Party,” said Hill, who lives in Hawaii Kai. “And I just think her campaign kind of reminds me of the progressive movement, and that’s why she got an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.”

Hill added, “I think Hawaii could be a leader in having more progressive people in politics, and it could show up in our criminal justice system.”

Read the full results of Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll here:

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