Political opponents form friendship during one candidate's illness

Political opponents form friendship during one candidate's illness

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As politicians' rhetoric heats up and more negative advertising hits television, radio and mailboxes across the state with just a week and a half to go before Election Day, Hawaii News Now discovered a story about two men running for the same office who have formed an unusual friendship as one of them faced a difficult illness during the campaign.

Sam Kong, 54, is a Democrat who runs his own taxi company. He's running for the Aiea State House seat being vacated by Mark Takai, who's running for Congress.

"Physically, I knew I couldn't do what needs to be done in a normal campaign. I couldn't walk the district. Sign waving, I had a feeling, would not be easy for me either," Kong said.

Kong has been sick in recent months, fighting a serious infection that sometimes leaves him with a high fever.

When he was hospitalized at Pali Momi Medical Center for eight days last month, he heard from his Republican opponent, Robert Helsham, who texted and called him.

"Please let me know if there's anything I can do and come and just bring some comfort and just be there to lift him up and encourage him that you know what, we're praying for you and we're with you," Helsham said.

Helsham, 49, is a worship minister at First Assembly of God Church in Red Hill, and is athletic director at the church's Christian Academy.

Helsham visited Kong in the hospital five times, played guitar and sang for him, brought him a minister who he admires and prayed with him.

"When he leaves, man, I'm almost in tears," Kong said of Helsham's hospital visits. "Just so touched by his heart, his generosity, just so awesome."

Kong is scheduled for surgery to remove the infection at the end of this month and his doctors said he'll make a full recovery but will likely still be in the hospital on Election Day.

Helsham said he'll continue to visit him and pray with his political opponent.

"I think that should be the norm instead of going against each other in a negative way, just encourage each other and lift each other up," Helsham said.

Kong summed things up and said: "It's not Robert Helsham or Sam Kong. It's for our Aiea community and I think that's where we stand."

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