By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
State Senate candidate Lorraine Inouye has refused to concede her race, choosing instead to prepare for a possible legal challenge against the narrow election victory to incumbent Sen. Malama Solomon.
Acting on advice of her attorneys, Inouye has not called to congratulate Solomon on the result, and she declined invitations to appear at Democratic Party “unity” events Sunday in Hilo and Kona.
Instead, she sent emails to state elections chief Scott Nago, county Clerk Jamae Kawauchi and Council Chairman Dominic Yagong complaining of potential irregularities in the vote.
“Under normal circumstances, I would have conceded the Senate District 4 race to Senator Malama Solomon last night,” Inouye wrote in the emails, sent Sunday. “However, due to the closeness of my race, I am in the process of fact finding to determine if your Office of Elections adhered to proper and legal election procedures and whether or not our voters were denied their right to vote.
“I will also be looking into any other irregularities by The Office of Elections that may have impacted the outcome, not only of my race but other races as well.
“Please be advised that I am seeking legal counsel in conjunction of filing a formal complaint with the Office of Elections.”
The 4th Senate District runs north from Paukaa to Upolu Point, and then west to Keahole Point in Kona.
Final results released at 3:12 a.m. Sunday show Solomon with 4,068 votes to Inouye’s 3,999 for a 67-vote difference between the two. The winning margin was 0.83 percent of all valid votes cast. There were also 499 blank votes.
Inouye said her attorneys, whom she did not name, were looking into the possibility of requesting a recount.
State law provides that candidates seeking relief may file a complaint in the state Supreme Court for any reason that could cause a difference in the election results. Inouye will have until 4:30 p.m. to file a complaint with the Supreme Court, along with a monetary deposit. The court will then issue summonses, hear arguments and render a judgment on which candidate will appear on the general election ballot to face Green Party candidate Kelly Greenwell.
Inouye said one of the reasons for her complaint was that the state Elections Office printout at 11 p.m. had Solomon with 3,866 votes to Inouye’s 3,788, a difference of 78 votes, with all 13 precincts reporting.
Sometime after midnight, however, Inouye sent someone down to the County Building to find that there was one truck coming in from Waimea with ballots.
“The questions that we have are several,” Inouye said. She wanted to know from where those extra votes had come if all 13 precincts had reported results by 11 p.m. Saturday.
Inouye also had concerns relating to the closure of the elections office to the public on Saturday night, and more importantly, whether voters had adequate notice of the governor’s proclamation extending polling hours to 7:30 p.m.
Inouye is looking into whether people had ample opportunities to vote. “We want to know what polls were denied opening up early,” she said.
She also wanted to know whether voters who had to work had adequate notice from the state that the polling places would be open later.
Asked for comment, Solomon did not directly answer the complaint, nor did she declare victory. She issued a statement congratulating all the candidates for their hard-fought races, and said there are no losers in the Democratic Party’s contested races.
“I would like to also like to recognize and credit the dedicated poll workers on Hawai‘i Island, many of whom worked 15-hour days, in order to keep the polling places open and help make sure that as many people as possible had the opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” Solomon wrote.
“Once again, my personal thanks and aloha to everyone who has supported us in our campaign – with a special mahalo nui to Lorraine Rodero Inouye for helping us bring home a critically important point: Every single vote counts.”
The 4th Senate District primary race was not the closest one in Hawaii County.
That distinction goes to 6th House District candidate Nicole Lowen, who earned the Democratic Party nod over Kalei Akaka by a vote of 1,067 to 1,022, a 45-vote margin.
And Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida, a candidate for prosecuting attorney, is headed into a runoff with Mitch Roth. Ashida could have won the election outright with a simple majority of the vote — 50 percent, plus one. Instead, he got 49.979 percent in the three-way race.
Ashida said he expected a runoff in his race and he is not contesting the outcome.
Email Peter Sur at email@example.com.