House Speaker Scott Saiki led challenger Kim Coco Iwamoto, a former Board of Education member, after the third round of Hawaii primary election votes were released Sunday midday. The results include all ballots received by election officials through Friday.

Saiki, who narrowly survived a challenge from the fellow Democrat two years ago, had 47.6% of the vote to his opponent’s 45% when the second results were released. It’s a margin of just 143 votes.

In state Senate races, Carol Fukunaga, a Honolulu City Councilwoman who is seeking to return to the Legislature, led over newcomer Ian Ross 59.5% to 31.3% for Fukunaga.

House Speaker Scott Saiki appeared with supporters on primary election night. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022

The 2022 elections are the first in 10 years in which all 76 seats are up due to the decennial reapportionment process that redraws district boundaries based on census data. The 2022 session, finished in early May, was also widely described as historic because of passage of an increase in the minimum wage and major funding for affordable housing and Native Hawaiian programs.

The elections this year are distinguished as well by the departure of longtime influential lawmakers including Rep. Sylvia Luke, who won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor on Saturday, and Sen. Roz Baker, who is retiring. The 2023 legislative session is likely to see many new faces as lawmakers vie for leadership and committee positions.

Also looming over the legislative contests are the guilty pleas earlier this year of former Rep. Ty Cullen and former Sen. J. Kalani English for accepting bribes to influence the passage of legislation.

Kim Coco Iwamoto at Margaritas Hawaii during a gathering she had on the weekend announcing running for House District 26 seat.
Kim Coco Iwamoto narrowly lost to Scott Saiki two years ago and trailed as of late Saturday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

In spite of the public outcry over the scandal, most incumbents faced little if any primary opposition.

Of the 25 members in the Senate, 18 incumbents were unopposed in the primary including Democrats Gil Keith-Agaran and Dru Kanuha and Republican Kurt Fevella. The three were reelected outright on Saturday because they face no opponent in the Nov. 8 general election.

Of the 51 members in the House, 19 incumbents are unopposed in the primary. Of them, seven were elected outright because they face no general election opponent. They include Republican Gene Ward and Democrats Mark Nakashima, Richard Onishi, Nicole Lowen, Scott Nishimoto and Linda Ichiyama.

Senate Races Of Note

In the Senate, incumbents Laura Acasio and Lorraine Inouye were placed in the same Big Island district because of redistricting. According to the second round of results, Inouye — the winner — had 52.4%, Acasio had 28.5% and a third candidate, former teachers’ union head Wil Okabe, was third with 12.6%.

Walter Ritte was defeated by Lynn DeCoite in a race for Senate. 

Sen. Lynn DeCoite defeated Walter Ritte — the contest was another noteworthy rematch — and Leo Caires for the seat that represents Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui. DeCoite had 55.1% to Ritte’s 30.6%. Caires has 5.9%.

And Sen. Bennette Misalucha lost to Brandon Elefante, the term-limited Honolulu City Council member who is hoping to continue his political career at the Legislature. Misalucha had 26.9% to Elefante’s 65.7%.

Rep. Henry Aquino will be the new state senator for District 19 covering Pearl City and Waipahu. He bested fellow Democrat Roger Clemente, 68.6% to 16.4%.

In the GOP primary, former KITV anchor Brenton Awa prevailed over Art Hannemann, 66.1% to 23%, for the District 23 North Shore seat held by Democrat Gil Riviere, who had no opposition in the primary. And former beauty queen Leilani Soon defeated True St. Thomas for the District 10 seat held by Kaimuki-area Democrat incumbent Les Ihara.

House Races Of Note

Two longtime friends and Democratic incumbents were forced to face each other after their respective Oahu House seats were reconfigured. Gregg Takayama garnered 62% of the vote to Roy Takumi’s 31.1%.

Della Au Belatti, the House Majority Leader, easily won her primary race with 50.5%. Challengers Valerie Wang was at 33.7% while Kanzo Nara had 4.7%.

Gary Gill speaks to demonstrators about the US Navy fuel spill and demands the fuel tanks be removed immediately at the Federal Building.
Gary Gill, seen here speaking to demonstrators about the Red Hill fuel spill, lost a House race Saturday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Democrat Gary Gill, a former Honolulu City Council member, lost to Jenna Takenouchi in another Oahu House race, 50.2% to 41.8%. The winner faces Republican Margaret Lim, who was unopposed in the primary.

Rep. Sharon Har, a Democrat whose arrest on a drunk driving charge last year was ultimately dismissed, beat challengers Lori Goeas and Makana Paris. Early results have Har with 37.2%, followed by Paris at 28% and Goeas at 24.5%.

And in a rematch, Rep. Cedric Gates bested Jo Jordan for the Waianae-Makaha District 45 seat. The votes were 67.7% to 24.3%.

In the GOP primary, the Kaimuki-St. Louis Heights District 21 seat held by Democrat Jackson Sayama saw Julia Allen hold back Joelle Seashell. The votes were 45.5% to 34.5%, respectively.

Several legislative races were too close to call Saturday and could require automatic recounts if the final margin is within 100 votes.

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