Alm, who is also a former prosecutor and U.S. attorney, has 52% of the vote compared to 41.2% for Kau, a criminal defense attorney.
The first numbers weren’t released until about 11:30 p.m. due to long lines at voting centers that kept the polls open, and at that time accounted for about 65% of the total votes.
Alm will be the first Honolulu prosecutor since 1988 not named Keith Kaneshiro or Peter Carlisle.
Carlisle is a former mayor who briefly considered running again this year. Kaneshiro is still prosecutor but has been on paid leave since March 2019 after receiving a target letter in a federal criminal investigation that already has resulted in convictions for assistant prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and several police officers.
Alm and Kau both ran on platforms that stressed the need to restore the reputation of an office badly damaged from the federal investigation. The Kealohas are awaiting sentencing on convictions of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Alm, 67, was the better-known candidate, benefiting from generous media attention on his founding in 2004 of a probation program called HOPE, or Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement. Alm was a First Circuit Court judge at the time.
Prior to that, as U.S. attorney, Alm helped start the Weed and Seed Program that helped reduce crime in the Chinatown and Kalihi-Palama areas.
Alm described his views on criminal justice reform as progressive and practical. He said he would “create a culture of high ethical standards of conduct and of doing justice, not just winning cases” if elected. “This campaign for Honolulu prosecutor is all about restoring trust in that office.”
Kau, 42, said the most pressing issue in the campaign was that crime has increased, and criminals have “resorted to pushing our kupuna down in the street, leaving them to die there.” She promised to “charge all crimes,” regardless of level. “We will charge unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and all other property crimes,” she said.
Kau formerly worked for Carlisle in the prosecutor’s office and was endorsed by him in the 2020 election.
Alm, who has led the race in public opinion polls all year, bested Kau in the Aug. 8 primary and five other candidates. Because more than 50% of the vote was needed to win the race outright, Alm and Kau moved to a runoff.