HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The race for Big Island mayor was too close to call until the very end. Billy Kenoi, 43, finally clinched the victory to hold onto the island's top job. His supporters burst into cheers after he secured the win in the tight race. Only 119 ballots separated the two men after the second printout. According to the final summary report, Kenoi had 31,797 votes (49.8%) compared to Harry Kim's 30,360 votes (47.6%).
"It's not a race that I would have selected or would have wanted, but it's a race that we were dealt with, and everybody in this community from Kohala to Kau, islandwide, from Hilo to Kona, people came out," said Kenoi.
"I gave it my best. That I know. I gave it my best," said Kim. "I wish I could take away some of the disappointment and pain of my supporters."
Kim, 73, decided to run due to home rule concerns. He wants to protect the role of county government and preserve public input on issues like geothermal development.
"Just because the election is over, I think you have to find another way to accomplish what you feel needs to be accomplished, and I've just got to take a look at what I should do at this point because those issues are still there," Kim said.
Kenoi spent Tuesday morning signwaving before heading to his headquarters in Kona. He wrapped up the night celebrating his victory with overjoyed supporters in Hilo.
Kenoi outspent his opponent by a huge margin. According to the Campaign Spending Commission, he raised $577,000 for his re-election bid. Kim brought in $19,000 which reflects his $10 donation limit.
Now that the election is over, Kenoi plans to tackle topics like renewable energy, solid waste, and transportation services during his second term as mayor.
"I love this island. I love every person that I've met on this campaign trail and I'm just honored and privileged to continue serving Hawaii Island," Kenoi said.