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Kimball challenges Inouye for Senate seat

Updated: 
October 12, 2017 - 4:39pm

HILO — Papaikou Democrat Heather Kimball plans to challenge state Sen. Lorraine Inouye for the District 4 seat representing Waikoloa, Waimea, Kohala, Hamakua and parts of Hilo and Kona.

Kimball, 45, who ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Mark Nakashima in the 2016 primary, says she’s a political outsider, but given the current political climate in the Legislature, she thinks voters are ready for a non-establishment candidate. She took 24.6 percent, to Nakashima’s 75.3 percent.

“After the complacency and lack of transparency we saw in the 2017 session and the special session on rail, I think people are ready for a change,” Kimball said. “They want elected officials who they feel put their needs over those with the deepest pockets.”

“The voters want to know why the bills they cared about died, like funding for UH Hilo to study rat lungworm disease or the 2045 clean transportation goals,” Kimball said.

Inouye, 77, was most recently elected senator in 2014. Before that, she was in the Senate from 1998-2008, served as Hawaii County mayor from 1990-1992 and on the County Council from 1984-1990.

Inouye said she welcomes Kimball to the race.

“This will generate more discussion about difficult issues and will help voters know more about their priorities for our district. … I also think good candidates and deep conversations will encourage more to vote in the 2018 primary, which is terrific for our county and state,” Inouye said.

“I’ve never been more energized about what’s possible now because so many of my constituents are really paying attention, want to get involved and do something to make a difference,” Inouye added. “I especially respect the grassroots groups in my district who have come together since the last election and are speaking out.”

Kimball plans to kick off her North Hawaii Senate campaign with a meet-the-candidate event scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 22, at Anna Ranch in Waimea. The public is invited.

She’s already started door-knocking in the district, saying the main concerns she’s hearing from voters are education, infrastructure and Hawaii’s high cost of living.

“Local families can no longer envision a future where their children will be able to stay here, have a good job, afford a home and raise their own families,” Kimball said. “As one resident told me, ‘I don’t want to move to the mainland to see my grandchildren.’”

As the mother of four daughters herself, including two Hilo High graduates who have moved to the mainland for school and employment, Kimball said she can empathize with this concern.

“We must diversify our economy so we can have careers that will allow us to stay in Hawaii. To do that, we must provide the educational and training opportunities to prepare our children for those careers. We can’t do one without the other.”

Kimball runs a scientific consulting firm and lectures in geography at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Kimball has a B.S. in biology from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology and environmental science from UH Hilo. Kimball serves as the Novice B women’s coach and on the board of Kamehameha Canoe Club. She is the current chairwoman of the Hawaii Island Sierra Club.

Inouye is a farmer in addition to a legislator. She was honored last year with the Big Island Press Club’s Torch of Light award for her bill increasing press access during disasters.

“Looking back, I’m proud to be called ‘the Bottle Bill senator.’ I’m also proud of having supported alternatives to fossil fuel when it wasn’t very popular,” she said. “I have always listened to my district and had hard, frank discussions about issues and options, and then worked to do something about it.”

Candidates can file to run for office Feb. 1 through June 5. The primary election is set for Aug. 11.

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