Kim Explains Motivations Behind His Bid For a Fourth Term for Hawai‘i County Mayor

April 28, 2020, 1:03 PM HST (Updated April 28, 2020, 2:09 PM)
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Harry Kim, above, has decided to run again for Hawaii County mayor. Wikipedia photo.

Harry Kim has unfinished business.

The sitting, three-term Hawai‘i County Mayor pulled papers to run for the office last week, the 19th potential candidate to do so, and confirmed to Big Island Now Tuesday that he will be filing to become an official candidate in short order.

His decision, he said, came down to the reality that Hawai‘i County faces one of the most tumultuous sets of circumstances in its history — as recovery efforts from the 2018 Kīlauea eruption are still underway, the future of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop Maunakea remains uncertain and COVID-19 has effectively shut down the Big Island for weeks, crippling its economy.

Mayor Kim, now 81 years old, feels it’s his responsibility to constituents to see those issues through.

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“The work is far from done,” Kim said.

The mayor said he came to the conclusion to run for a fourth term in the county’s highest office after sitting down and asking himself three questions: Why do I need to do this? Why do I want to do this? And am I able to do this?

Kim said he believes he should run again because the beginning of an unprecedented global health crisis is a time for continuity.

“I felt I should do it because we are just realizing the full scope of COVID-19, we didn’t realize the extent of it until recently,” the mayor said. “At this time, we have no vaccine. We have problems with the testing in regards to the numbers, the small percent being tested.”

He said he wants to run again because of the tumult playing out at the island’s highest peak between TMT and the kia‘i, who believe it’s their sacred duty to halt construction of what, if built, would be the most advanced telescope in the world.

Kim wants to help broker a peace between the state and the demonstrators, but he’s also fearful old and new officials alike won’t stand for a project he believes in.

“When I wrote about my vision, I wrote about the importance of making science an (integral) part of Hawai‘i and not being dependent on a single source of the economy, which is tourism,” Kim said. “It’s not good for any place to dependent on one thing, and what a great gift of science Maunakea is for the people of Hawai‘i.”

“(TMT) is good for Hawai‘i, and I realize I might be the only one really pushing for it,” the mayor continued. “I think it’s important that I try to stay in it and push for it.”

He also noted the necessity for high-level planning in the Kīlauea recovery effort, which he said still has “a ways to go.” The federal government recently announced $61 million in aid to help rebuild roads in areas of Puna most decimated by the eruption.

Kim said he’s proud of the recovery programs in place, as well as the progress made to help tackle the Big Island’s homelessness crisis, which has been lessened incrementally since 2015 based on Point-in-Time Count tallies.

And finally, the mayor said he’s capable of standing up to the challenge of four more years at the county’s helm, despite questions about his fitness due to age.

“You’ve got to know you’re able to do it physically and mentally. Obviously, people are concerned about age. People my age normally don’t run,” Kim said. “But that’s what democracy is about. The people will make the decision.”

“If I was not prepared, I would not do it,” he continued. “You have an obligation to those in the community to do the work and to know you can do it. I guarantee you if the answer was no, I would not be pulling my papers.”

“All I ask is that people judge me by my work. Nothing else.”

A list of those who have pulled papers and/or filed to run for office against Mayor Kim can be accessed here.

The Primary Election will be held on Aug. 8, 2020. Hawai‘i County mandates a majority victor, meaning the winning candidate must earn 50% of the popular vote to secure the office in the Primary. If that doesn’t happen, the top two vote-getters will advance to the General Election on Nov. 3.

Max Dible
Max Dible is a reporter for Big Island Now. He will also serve in a news capacity for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter and radio talk show personality with the Iowa State Daily and KURE 88.5 FM, respectively, in Ames, Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing and his work as a sports columnist.
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