Republican Kurt Fevella appeared headed to victory over Democratic rival Matt LoPresti late Tuesday night to fill the open Senate seat representing Ewa and Ewa Beach, giving the Republican Party a surprise turnaround in what was otherwise an evening of Democratic sweeps. Fevella was leading by just 133 votes late Tuesday night, with nearly 12,000 votes in that race counted.
Fevella would become the lone Republican in the Hawaii Senate.
The District 19 seat was left vacant when longtime Sen. Will Espero stepped down this year to unsuccessfully run for lieutenant governor.
LoPresti, a philosophy professor at Hawaii Pacific University, served in the state House of Representatives from 2014, vacating that seat to run for the Senate.
LoPresti and Fevella have been political adversaries since serving together on the Ewa Neighborhood Board. Fevella once called the police on LoPresti, saying he felt threatened by him following a contentious board meeting. LoPresti also called the cops on Fevella and his 2016 Republican challenger in the House, Bryan Jeremiah, claiming the two had assaulted him while on the campaign trail. The charges were eventually dropped.
Fevella worked to capitalize during his campaign on an embarrassing incident in the primary: LoPresti was caught on video stealing his primary rival’s campaign material while canvassing at a home. LoPresti said at the time that he had “deep regret” over his actions and that he had returned the flyers the next day.
In another closely watched race, Democrat Sharon Moriwaki easily defeated Republican Lynn Barry Mariano.
This was the first race for Moriwaki, a faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and co-chairwoman of the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum. She surprised political observers during the August primary when she ousted incumbent Brickwood Galuteria for the Senate District 12 seat, which spans Kakaako to Waikiki.
Moriwaki has a long history of engagement in public policy and politics. She served as deputy director of the Labor Department and as director of human resources for former Gov. John Waihee’s administration. She also helped coordinate Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in Hawaii and is married to Galen Fox, a former state legislator.
Mariano, a retired Army major, works as a program manager at Camp Smith and is an adjunct professor at Chaminade University.
Hawaii became the only state in the country with an entirely Democratic Senate when Stanley Chang ousted Republican Sam Slom in 2016. While Republican Party officials had hoped the election of President Donald Trump would give them a boost locally, they have continued to struggle. The Republican Party was able to field candidates in only five of the 13 Senate races this year.
In other races involving a Republican challenger, Democratic Sen. Clarence Nishihara easily defeated Republican Roger Clemente for the District 17 seat representing Waipahu and Pearl City. Democratic incumbent Michelle Kidani trounced Republican Tony Solis for the District 18 seat representing Mililani, Waikele and Kunia. And Democratic Sen. Maile Shimabukuro handily beat Republican Diamond Garcia for the District 21 seat covering Kalaeloa, Waianae and Makaha.
For full Honolulu Star-Advertiser coverage of the 2018 general election, go to 808ne.ws/SA2018VOTE.
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