Tuesday | October 17, 2017
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Online Extra: Onishi, Coffman, Lowen win state House seats


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Democrats took all three state House races up for grabs on the Big Island.

In the race for the new 3rd state House District, from Panawea to Punaluu, Democrat Richard Onishi cruised to victory over Republican Marlene Hapai, 4,855 votes, or 57.1 percent, to 2,795 votes, or 32.9 percent, with all eight precincts reporting and all walk-in and absentee votes counted.

Libertarian Fred Fogel was a distant third with 851 votes, or 10 percent.

District 3 has no incumbent since redistricting moved state Rep. Clift Tsuji into the 2nd House District.

“The people of our district have spoken,” Onishi said, and praised his team for running a positive campaign.

Hapai said she was “a bit surprised” by Onishi’s margin of victory, saying she’s gotten a lot of “positive responses” during campaigning.

“We’ve fought the good fight,” she said. “We did a lot of door-to-door (campaigning) and not just leaving brochures, but talking to people.”

Onishi, 58, is the brother of County Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi. He’s a senior information system analyst for the county Department of Information Technology and former president of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the statewide white-collar public sector union.

He said that finding additional revenue for the district and sustainable agriculture are his priorities.

“First of all, we’ve got to build business,” he said. “We’ve got to encourage and support business; we’ve got to make it easier for business people to do business in Hawaii, within our district. If we get sustainable agriculture going and we increase the number of people who have farms and we increase the size of the farms, that will help. And I’m not just talking about produce; I’m talking about livestock and ornamental flowers and plants. There’s a whole wealth of possibilities.

Onishi reported $62,967.44 in campaign receipts and $58.164.99 in expenditures. Not surprisingly, his campaign shows strong union support, with $2,000 each from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1186 Political Action Committee, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 142 and the Hawaii Laborers Union Employers Cooperative and Educational Trust Fund.

The Honokaa-born Hapai, 64, is a retired educator and Kurtistown resident, reported $37,575.51 in receipts to add to the $18,482.85 her campaign had on hand at the start of the election season. She reported $43,548.20 in expenditures. Hapai’s only union endorsement — and her largest contribution — came from the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), who put $2,000 into her campaign coffers.

Onishi, Hapai and Fogel all ran positive campaigns, and all ducked opportunities to sling mud at each other.

House District 5

Democratic Rep. Denny Coffman defeated GOP challenger Dave Bateman in the 5th House District with 5,404 votes, or 67.5 percent, to 2,176 votes or 32.5 percent.

Coffman, who currently holds the District 6 seat, was redistricted to the 5th, which extends from South Point up north to the edge of Kailua-Kona.

House District 6

Democrat Nicole Lowen will be a new face in the legislature, handily outdistancing Republican Roy Ebert to replace Coffman in the 6th House District, which includes Kailua-Kona.

With the walk-in and absentee votes counted and five districts reporting, Lowen had 5,274 votes, or 68.3 percent of the valid votes cast, while 2,443, or 331.7 percent, cast their votes for Ebert.

Lowen made her way into the general election by narrowly clinching the Democratic nomination over Kalei Akaka in the August primary.


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