Inouye, San Buenaventura, Richards win state Senate seats representing Big Island
UPDATE: This story is updated with results from the third printout at 4:40 a.m. Wednesday.
The 2022 General Election featured three races for the Hawai‘i Senate on the Big Island.
State Senate District 1
Sen. Lorraine Inouye of Hilo, who has served in the Senate since the late 1990s, is the apparent winner of the redistricted District 1 seat. She served the former District 1 from 1998 to 2008.
Inouye faced off against Republican candidate Helen Tupa‘i, a career development facilitator from Hilo, in Tuesday’s election. As of 4:40 a.m. Wednesday, Inouye had a commanding lead with 12,414 votes (67.4%) compared to Tupa‘i’s 5,085 votes (27.6%).
New Senate district boundaries were drawn due to increased population from 2020 census data. The redistricting created a competitive Democratic primary race for District 1, which encompasses the greater Hilo area.
Inouye served District 4, which previously encompassed Hilo, Hawī, Waikōloa and Waimea, since 2014. Redistricting shifted the veteran senator back to District 1, which now includes Pepe‘ekeo, Papaikou, Hilo, Keaukaha and Kaʻūmana.
At a celebration with supporters at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, Inouye said Tuesday night she is excited to again represent her hometown in the Senate. She said the district already has put her to work.
“I’m proud that the people of Senate District 1 have given me their votes and their confidence in representing the new Senate District 1,” Inouye said.
She will retain her chairwomanship of the Senate Water and Land Committee and vice chairwomanship of the Committee on Transportation when she heads back to O‘ahu in January.
She also will continue to serve on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and will join the Public Safety Committee, which is near and dear to her heart and definitely affects District 1, especially because of the issues at the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center in Hilo.
“I think there’s a lot of work to do and I’ll continue to make sure that our input is taken seriously coming from a district representative being on the committee,” Inouye said about her position on the Public Safety Committee.
She’s glad the election cycle is over and she can get back to work.
“Now I can start doing the people’s work,” Inouye said.
Tupa‘i said the results were better than she expected and she learned a lot from her first time running for office.
“That was a good race,” she said Tuesday night. “That’s a good first start for me and a very good beginning.”
She was inspired by her brother, Seaula Tupa‘i Jr., who ran for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket, and learned from her family that grit is an important part of a successful campaign. She also was grateful for all of the volunteers who helped with her campaign; without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.
Helen Tupai‘i said the race gave her a s sense of purpose and destiny, and she was able to take a stand on issues in society. She is thankful for all who voted for her and gave her their trust and confidence.
State Senate District 2
Incumbent Democrat Joy San Buenaventura of Hawaiian Paradise Park is the apparent winner in District 2.
San Buenaventura was up against two challengers, Republican Holly Osborn, owner of Rocky Mountain Rebuilders who lives in Mountain View, and Libertarian Frederick Fogel, a retired engineer and quality advisor/strategic planner who lives in Volcano Village.
As of 4:40 a.m. Wednesday, San Buenaventura had 9,468 votes (67.2%), ahead of Osborn with 3,513 votes (25%) and Fogel with 593 votes (4.2%).
District 2 includes Kea‘au, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Ainaloa, Kapoho, Pāhoa, Pohoiki, Leilani Estates, Opihikao, Kalapana, Volcano, Mountain View and Kurtistown.
“I’m really thrilled that my constituency believes in what I do and my positions, and have chosen me to continue to represent them,” San Buenaventura said Tuesday night from her home, where she was watching returns with supporters.
San Buenaventura said the state Legislature will be different in January when she returns to O’ahu, with at least 20% turnover meaning there will be a lot of new people. She’s interested in seeing how the dynamics will change, which will include a new governor and lieutenant governor.
“It’s gonna be different,” San Buenaventura said. “We’re gonna have a new governor. I’m anxious to see who he’s going to choose to be in his cabinet.”
She’s also cautiously optimistic that the state won’t have the recession some are forecasting.
Osborn and Fogel could not be reached for comment.
State Senate District 4
Democrat Tim Richards, a North Kohala resident who currently represents District 9 on the Hawai’i County Council, appears to be the winner over Republican Nick Tancheff, a chiropractor and owner of Island Holistic Healing who lives in Waikōloa.
As of 4:40 a.m. Wednesday, Richards had 11,002 votes (66.7%) compared to Tancheff’s 4,447 votes (27%).
District 4 now includes Kalaoa, Waikōloa, Puako, Waimea, Kawaihae, Hawī, Kapa‘au, Honoka‘a, Pa‘auilo, Laupahoephoe, Papa‘aloa, Hakalau and Honomū due to redistricting.
Richards is ingrained in the agricultural community of North Hawai’i as a rancher and livestock veterinarian. Born and raised in North Kohala, the only time he’s been away from his home on the Big Island was while he was in school. He’s worked with many of the constituents who he will now represent in the Senate.
“I think my message really resonated with many of them,” Richards said Tuesday night.
He’s very excited to represent the new District 4 as a champion for the agricultural community. He’s an advocate for food security and has helped craft policy nationally on an advisory level for decades, including for an advisory group of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While serving as the representative of District 9 on the County Council, he worked on agricultural policy.
“Agriculture is about land management and stewardship, water management and stewardship and about economy,” Richards said, adding they are all intertwined like a lattice. “It is a nexus and we cannot talk about one facet without talking about all of it because it’s all interrelated.”
To move forward, policymakers have to pay attention to all facets of agriculture as they set policy, he said.
Tancheff could not be reached for comment.