East Hawaii News

County Council to Have At Least Three New Faces

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There will be some familiar faces on the Hawaii County Council come January, with two of the incumbents running unopposed and six of the other seven current members eligible for re-election again throwing their hats into the ring.

Running unopposed – again – will be Dennis “Fresh” Onishi in council District 3 in Hilo and Dru Mamo Kanuha in District 7 in Kona.

This will be Onishi’s third consecutive race without competition, although in 2010, prior to the 2012 council redistricting, he was in District 4, which included a small part of Puna.

Kanuha ran unopposed in 2012 in his first attempt at office.

Since Hawaii County races are non-partisan, both need just a single vote to return to office in the Aug. 9 primary election.

In the other races, if nobody achieves 50% of the vote plus one, the top two vote-getters will face off in the Nov. 4 general election.


Three of the nine council seats will have new representatives next year.

That includes District 2 in Hilo and District 6 in Ka`u and South Kona, where incumbents J Yoshimoto and Brenda Ford, respectively, reached their voter-established limit of four consecutive two-year terms.

The third is District 5, where first-term Councilman Zendo Kern decided against running for re-election.

The move was somewhat surprising, as his campaign website, zendokern.com, today still had a “Re-elect Zendo Kern” section with an adjacent donation button.

When Kern took office in 2012, his District 5 had new boundaries, thanks to redistricting.


The redistricting created two seats solely in Puna, split primarily along Highway 130 through Pahoa, with District 4 mostly along the coast and District 5 on the mauka side.

But there is no shortage of candidates to fill Kern’s seat as seven contenders have filed, the most of any of the council races.

The crowded field includes Tiffany Edwards Hunt, a former West Hawaii Today reporter who publishes the “Big Island Chronicle” blog and newspaper.

She also previously served on the staff of former Puna councilwoman Emily Naeole, as did Roxanne “RJ” Hampton, one of her opponents in upcoming primary.

Naeole, who lost a re-election bid to Fred Blas in 2010, is running again, this time against District 4 incumbent Greggor Ilagan, who defeated Blas in 2012.


Aaron Chung, a Hilo attorney who served on the council from 1996 to 2004, is among five candidates who have filed to fill Yoshimoto’s term-limited seat in District 2.

His best-known opponent is Margarita “Dayday” Hopkins, a longtime agricultural specialist in the county Department of Research and Development.

Those looking to fill Ford’s empty seat include current Deputy County Clerk Maile David-Medeiros and retired Hawaii Tribune-Herald publisher Jim Wilson.

A complete list of council candidates can be found here.

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