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Hashimoto, Yamashita reclaim House seats

Central Maui, Upcountry were only winner-take-all races

Rep. Troy Hashimoto opens the door to his Wailuku home, where he was watching the election returns with family Saturday night. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Central Maui Rep. Troy Hashimoto took a strong early lead and coasted to the finish with one of the biggest margins Saturday night in one of two winner-take-all state House races.

Hashimoto had 4,930 votes, or 70.6 percent, while opponents Ka’apuni Aiwohi collected 1,122 votes, or 17.5 percent, and Robert “Bobby” Hill, 486 votes, or 7 percent. There were also 337 blank votes. Because all three candidates are Democrats, the winner of the primary wins the seat.

“I’m pleased that my constituents recognize the work that we’ve been trying to do, and I will continue to work really hard for them in the upcoming session if the numbers hold true,” Hashimoto said after the first printout, as he led with 71.1 percent of the vote to Aiwohi’s 16.9 percent and Hill’s 7.1 percent.

Aiwohi, who had 1,129 votes after the first printout, said he wasn’t surprised by the initial results.

“I kind of knew that it would be like this, with an uphill battle and this whole COVID thing,” Aiwohi said. “I’m not really surprised. I think the biggest thing that I need to accept is a lot of people are voting against their own interests.”

Kyle Yamashita

The Kamehameha Schools educator said that campaigning during the pandemic was tough, especially for a first-time candidate going up against an incumbent. He said he would’ve liked to go door to door and could have sign-waved more and put up additional signs.

“But I didn’t want to win like that,” he said. “I wanted to win because people knew I would have done a better job.”

Hill, meanwhile, was still in good spirits despite trailing in third place with 473 votes, or 7.1 percent, after the first printout.

“Bronze medal,” he quipped. “We getting whupped, but that’s OK.”

Hill said because it was hard to tell how many votes had been counted as of the first printout, he wasn’t sure if there were even enough votes for him to make up the deficit. Nevertheless, the former Maui police lieutenant was enjoying a small Election Night gathering (following county rules of no more than 10 people) with pork on sweet bread buns, char siu style chicken and his wife’s “awesome coleslaw.”

“I have my family and the campaign, the people that were helping me out,” he said. “We’re just enjoying each other’s company.”

Hashimoto said he was also pleased overall with the turnout, which reached 6,418 votes by the second printout, already exceeding the 6,124 votes cast in the 2018 primary between Hashimoto and three others. Hashimoto was appointed to fill the seat of long-time House member and Speaker Joe Souki and won the seat outright last election.

“I think that is great, especially for a primary, and I think it’s just more interest in these races because the ballots were so convenient for them to vote,” Hashimoto said.

Meanwhile, veteran Upcountry Rep. Kyle Yamashita, a Democrat, handily defended his state House of Representatives District 12 seat against second-generation farmer and Democrat Simon Russell.

Yamashita, who has represented Pukalani, Makawao, Spreckelsville, Olinda, Pulehu, Kula and Ulupalakua for nearly 16 years, earned 4,133 votes, or 53.9 percent. Russell had 2,874 votes, or 37.5 percent. Blank votes numbered 641, representing 8.4 percent.

“Of course, when you are winning, it feels good,” Yamashita told The Maui News before the second printout Saturday.

The incumbent is a member of the House Finance Committee, along with member and former chairman of the House Committee on Economic Development and Business, and has funneled money for CIP projects Upcountry.

Russell, though, highlighted that his message resonated with a percentage of voters. His platforms advocated for subsidizing housing for teachers, water resource preservation and sustainable agriculture.

“My opponent can make claims he’s bringing money to Maui and that’s what people care about,” he said. “I would way rather the state invest in people. The main reason I ran is to support teachers.”

Russell, who entered the political ring for the first time, said that the pandemic impacted his ability campaign effectively.

“The coronavirus pandemic really impacted my ability to get my message out there,” he said. “I wasn’t able to go door to door.”

He said he reached out to “ohana” to ask for support and saw some traction on social media outreaches.

“Sadly, most people still don’t vote,” he said. “Especially in the case of a national emergency, it’s more important than ever. Whether I win or lose isn’t the point — how come more people aren’t participating?”

Yamashita also said the pandemic and physical distancing measures changed a lot about his campaigning. In years past, the incumbent would be sign waving. This year it was probably a quarter of what he normally does, Yamashita said.  

“We couldn’t campaign the same way,” he said. “Obviously no forums. The Zoom thing was OK but it was not the same. We couldn’t go house to house.”

The incumbent said he spent election night at home, with family and a few friends.

“Social distancing through this pandemic has changed how we run a campaign and how we watch the results come in,” he said. “It’s not like before. I’m just home with my family and a few friends.”

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