It’s Bissen v. Victorino for the general election

Retired judge tops incumbent mayor in votes, King follows in third

Mayoral candidate 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. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Retired Judge Richard Bissen Jr. and incumbent Mayor Michael Victorino appeared poised to advance to the general election in November, with Bissen holding an 800-vote lead over Victorino as of 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

Bissen had 10,028 votes, or 35.2 percent, to Victorino’s 9,223 votes, or 32.4 percent, as of the second printout released by the state Office of Elections on Saturday night. Bissen pulled a slightly higher lead after the first printout showed him with a 677-vote lead over Victorino.

Coming in third was Maui County Council Member Kelly Takaya King with 3,933 votes, or 13.8 percent. Akamai Coffee Co. owner and CEO Kim Brown was fourth with 1,801 votes, or 6.3 percent, while Council Member Mike Molina had 1,568 votes, or 5.5 percent. Construction company owner Cullan Bell had 1,023 votes, or 3.6 percent; Alana Kay had 168 votes, or 0.6 percent; and Jonah Lion had 69 votes, or 0.2 percent.

“I’m grateful for the outcome,” Bissen said after the second printout. “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 Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“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. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

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, Victorino said he was waiting to see the third printout of results, 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.

Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu said shortly before 11 p.m. that staff had just picked up the ballots from the voter service centers on Lanai and Molokai and that they would likely be included on the next printout.

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.”

Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom performs at her cousin Richard Bissen's election night party in Kahului on Saturday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

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

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 is 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.”


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