By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
Newcomer Russell Ruderman joined incumbents Josh Green and Malama Solomon in picking up wins in the state Senate on Tuesday evening.
With all precincts reporting, Ruderman took 10,319 votes, or 71.5 percent, to Daryl Lee Smith’s 3,115, or 21.6 percent. The pair were running for state Senate District 2, covering Puna and parts of Ka‘u.
Ruderman spent the evening at his home in Keaau watching results come in with family and friends. When contacted for comment, he said that the evening had been a big night for Democrats across the state and the nation.
“It’s really nice to see the way the Democrats come together after the primary,” he said.”Aloha is alive here in Hawaii. It’s nice to see the Democratic party is practicing politics of compassion here, as compared to politics of greed.”
He added that he was thrilled with the way his grassroots campaign had come together on a “people level.”
“I’m excited to represent this new district,” he said. “I think it’s nice for the people to have someone representing Puna and Ka‘u that really represents their interests. And I feel like I am.”
Ruderman, the founder and owner of organic foods store Island Naturals, highlighted a number of issues during his campaign, including restoring funding for education, protecting workers’ rights, preserving the environment, promoting renewable energy, expanding public financing for candidates, and supporting isle farms and businesses.
His opponent, Smith, a former contractor and the chairman of the Hawaii County Republican Party, described himself as a libertarian and fiscal conservative who is wary of government spending, advocating reform and accountability. A former Democrat, Smith said he supports basing teacher pay on performance, and finding ways to transition recipients off of welfare to prevent them from remaining on it indefinitely.
Meanwhile, seeking to represent Ka‘u and Kona in state Senate District 3 were Democratic incumbent state Sen. Green and Republican Jeff LaFrance.
Green garnered 11,217 votes, taking the support of 74.4 percent of his constituents. Lafrance earned 3,152 votes, or 20.9 percent.
“I’m extremely honored to have received the support of my community in West Hawaii,” Green said.
“We’ve been focusing on results for West Hawaii over the past several years and working together,” he said. “This has been a very positive experience.”
Green, who works as an emergency room physician at Kona Community Hospital, ran unopposed in the August primary. He currently serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health. He has supported health care reform and has introduced legislation aimed at attracting much-needed doctors to rural areas of Hawaii.
LaFrance, a Republican, is a retired contractor and operator for an alarm company, a farmer, and a real estate broker. His platform centered on improving education, promoting sustainable agriculture, developing alternative energy sources and making the Big Island more business friendly.
In the race to represent North Hawaii’s Distrct 4 in the Senate, incumbent Solomon also walked away with a win. She earned 9,726 votes, or 61 percent, compared to Republican opponent Kelly Greenwell’s 4,871 votes, or 30.5 percent.
“We’re just having a ball over here,” Solomon said with a laugh upon being contacted. “I’m just very happy and grateful that we ran a good campaign. Everybody worked very hard and it all paid off in the end.”
She added that she was also happy to see fellow Democrats Mazie Hirono and Barack Obama pull out big wins.
“This is just one of the rare moments in your life where all the good candidates get in. It’s a great night,” she said. “I just can’t tell you how pleased we are.”
Solomon earned her party’s nomination after defeating former Mayor Lorraine Inouye in the primary. A Waimea resident, she served as one of the original trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She has said she would avoid any new taxes and would work to provide more job opportunities for her constituents, as well as improving state land management practices.
Kelly Greenwell was an underdog in the race, garnering only 18 votes in the Aug. 11 primary election. He says his bid was an attempt to introduce the Green Party’s agenda as an alternative to the modern Republican Party. He emphasized stopping the Honolulu rail project, and reining in out-of-control government.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.