MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in 1993 when she was 28, Elle Cochran served five years probation and completed 200 hours of community service for her role in the robbery of a group of tourists in Lahaina.
Twenty-five years and four terms as a Maui Councilwoman later, she's running for mayor in a crowded race that includes fellow Councilmember Don Guzman and former Councilmember Mike Victorino.
"No one's lives or stories are perfect. We all make mistakes in life," Cochran said. "I feel I'm a role model … for people who are possibly going through the same thing."
Under Hawaii law, convicted felons can run for office as long as they've completed their sentences, and Cochran says she's learned from her mistakes.
"I think I'm more empathetic to our social services programs, our substance abuse programs and to people who are incarcerated," Cochran said.
Since her conviction, Cochran has stayed out of legal trouble, worked in the visitor industry, and owns a surf shop on Maui with her husband.
In the political arena however, she has attracted a lot of opposition for her pro-environment and anti-GMO stances.
"She's a controversial figure, and a well-known anti-GMO activist, so this obviously is tough for any political candidate when they have a criminal history," said Colin Moore, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii.
So far none of her opponents has raised the conviction as an issue.
"Really it's up to the voters to decide," said Moore. "She's honest about her history (and) she's eligible for office."
There are eight days until the primary election, and the top two candidates in the Maui mayor's race head to general election in November.