Final results widen Bissen’s lead, set up Nov. 8 showdown

Incumbent Mayor Victorino will have to play catch-up on way to general election

Mayoral candidate and retired judge Richard Bissen holds grandson Milo Bissen-Kahula while welcoming former Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa to his election night party Saturday night at the Binhi at Ani Filipino Community Center in Kahului. Bissen was the top mayoral vote-getter in Saturday’s primary with 13,407 votes, or 34 percent. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Final results released on Sunday afternoon widened Richard Bissen Jr.’s lead over incumbent Mayor Michael Victorino in the Maui County mayoral race, setting up a major matchup in November between the retired judge and the sitting mayor.

Bissen had 13,407 votes, or 34 percent, to Victorino’s 11,747 votes, or 29.8 percent, as of 1 p.m. Sunday.

Coming in third was Maui County Council Member Kelly Takaya King with 6,350 votes, or 16.1 percent. Akamai Coffee Co. owner and CEO Kim Brown was fourth with 2,851 votes, or 7.2 percent, while Council Member Mike Molina had 2,068 votes, or 5.2 percent. Construction company owner Cullan Bell had 1,769 votes, or 4.5 percent; Alana Kay had 244 votes, or 0.6 percent; and Jonah Lion had 96 votes, or 0.2 percent.

“I’m grateful for the outcome,” Bissen said late Saturday night. “All the hard work of all the volunteers paid off, all their work was rewarded. It made a difference.”

While other candidates had the advantage of name recognition and positions in government, “we had to start from zero,” Bissen said.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino talks with Akaku Maui Community Director of Government Access Chivo Ching-Johnson Saturday night. The incumbent finished second in the mayor’s race with 11,747 votes, or 29.8 percent.

“I also feel this is how we’re going to work as a team in the mayor’s office. We’re going to pull together,” Bissen said. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s just the start of this.

“People talk about doing things. I feel like we’ve demonstrated that. We can work harder and do more.”

He said the reason people voted for him “is because they know me.”

“Even though I’m not a politician, they know who I am,” he said. “They know where I come from. They believe in what I stand for.

“There’s a real hope in this because I’m part of this community. I come from this community, my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents.”

Mayoral candidate Kelly King is interviewed via Zoom on Akaku Maui Community Media Saturday night. King finished third in the eight-candidate mayor’s race with 6,350 votes, or 16.1 percent. “I was really hoping we would have two contrasting choices for mayor and it does not feel that way. That’s why I ran, to give people a choice,” King said after the second printout of results was released at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday night.

He said the campaign focused on reaching voters. “For a bunch of amateurs, we did a pretty good job,” he said. “We don’t have experience. We have energy, we have ideas, we have a commitment.”

After the second printout, which showed Bissen with 10,028 votes to Victorino’s 9,223, Victorino said he was waiting to see the third printout, expecting more votes from Lanai and Molokai, which he said may help him more than it would help Bissen. In the 2020 primary election, Victorino won the Lanai and Molokai votes over then-mayoral candidate Elle Cochran.

The last collection of ballots did give Victorino a boost but also bumped Bissen’s lead.

But overall, Victorino said: “I think it’s going to be the two of us. For me right now, I’m happy we are going on to the general and looking forward to some vigorous campaigning.”

He said he will continue to work hard and so will his team.

Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom performs Saturday at her cousin Richard Bissen’s election night party in Kahului.

As far as doing some things differently for the general election, Victorino said he would like to have more outreach events, which he did not do in the first months of the year.

And, depending on the COVID-19 cases, he would like to have coffee hours and gatherings where he can meet with people one-on-one.

Victorino acknowledged after the first printout that he was hoping for “a little better results” but was happy to be where he was. The first set of results showed Bissen with 9,763 votes, or 35.8 percent, to Victorino’s 9,086 votes, or 33.3 percent.

“I’ve gone through a lot and the county has gone through a lot and I understand why people feel the way they do and I want to make sure that as we move on that we correct and work together to make this county what I call no ka oi,” he said. “I see it, it’s a real feeling in my heart.”

He added: “To all those that ran, I really say mahalo for their effort and I will say this, I’m proud of all of my opponents and what they brought to the table and now I would like to ask them to come together and let’s work to make Maui a better place. The election doesn’t change what we want, a better Maui.”

King said after the first printout, which showed her with 3,794 votes, or 13.9 percent, that she would wait to see the results of the second printout but acknowledged “it looks like it’s going to be hard to catch up.”

“I was really hoping we would have two contrasting choices for mayor and it does not feel that way. That’s why I ran to give people a choice,” King said after the second set of results were released.

She said this includes her stance on being an environmental climate mayor.

“We had high hopes, just the amount of support we’ve been getting everywhere we went (and) the feedback on the forums,” King added.

When asked if the results could have been different if she had entered the race earlier, as she filed on the deadline of June 7, King said, “possibly, if we had stepped into the race a year ago or even eight to 10 months ago. It could have been different, but it is what it is.”

King jumped into the race late because she said people were waiting to see what the mayoral candidates’ stances were. Because no one had enough focus on the aina, environment and climate issues, people encouraged her to run.

She called the results “disappointing,” noting that Maui County has a culture that puts the aina first.

“I’m sad as I was really looking forward to, as mayor, to collaborate with the council, which is something that’s been missing for the last four years,” King added.

With the loss, King will no longer be in politics, but added she has “lots to do” with her and her husband’s company, Pacific Biodiesel, which received a $6 million appropriation in federal funds for a fuel crop project on Oahu.

It is going to be located on Oahu “because Maui County ironically has not been supportive in using biodiesel,” King said.

She said the City and County of Honolulu has been using it for 15 years and Hawaii island is also using it, as that’s where Pacific Biodiesel makes the fuel.

She will also be involved with the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2022, also known as COP 27.

Council Member Mike Molina, who’d gone into the race as potentially another top contender, offered congratulations to both Bissen and Victorino.

“I look forward to an exciting general election,” he said.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “It’s all a money game. If you got the most money, you can get your message out.”

He said he has no political aspirations for now and will continue working part time as a substitute teacher.

“I still have some ways I can give back to the community,” he said. “I’ll still find a way to stay involved.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com and Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.


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