Harry Kim fails to win re-election as Big Island mayor

Published: Aug. 9, 2020 at 10:54 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2020 at 10:56 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island voters denied Harry Kim a fourth term as mayor in Saturday’s primary election, opting instead for some fresh blood.

By the end of the night, Kim challengers Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth and community leader Ikaika Marzo had secured enough votes to advance to the general election in November.

Kim, meanwhile, was in a distant third place — securing just 15% of the vote.

He told Hawaii News Now he was “disappointed” with the results, but was looking forward to taking a break.

Kim has held the role of Hawaii Island Mayor from 2000 to 2008, then again from 2016 to present.

At 81, he’s not only a household name in Hawaii. He’s something of a legend. But his most recent tenure hasn’t been controversy-free.

He’s faced criticism for his handling of the Thirty Meter Telescope protests, while also trying to serve as something of a mediator between Native Hawaiian activists and the state.

He also faced questions over his handling of the 2018 Kilauea eruption and its aftermath.

During and after the eruption, families displaced from their Leilani Estates home and other communities had mixed reactions over the county’s handling of information dissemination, security for abandoned homes, and recovery time, which included the rebuilding of some major highways.

It was during the eruption that community leader Ikaika Marzo started to gain prominence.

He led an effort to get help to those who needed it, coordinating donations and services to thousands.

Marzo, a critic of Kim, has never held elected office.

But he says he knows how to handle a crisis, and believes he’s in the best position to help the Big Island recover from the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout.

In a Civil Beat Q&A, he also said he wasn’t in favor of raising property taxes, but would look to tourism green fees as a way to generate revenue and maintain tourism hotspots.

That may be challenging with the tourism industry still all but shuttered in the islands.

Businesses remain on the brink of bankruptcy, particularly on the island’s tourism-dependent Kona side. Keeping the island economy afloat is among the issues candidates in the run are facing.

Prosecutor Mitch Roth, who announced his run in December 2019, feels the need to balance supporting tourism with cuts to the county budget as needed.

He said he intends to look at local ways of diversifying the economy, which includes renewable energy, agriculture, science and technology projects and more.

On the topic of the Thirty Meter Telescope, Roth supports the construction of TMT atop Mauna Kea, favoring the jobs and scientific benefits it is said to bring.

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