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Republican Kurt Fevella holds on for close win over Matt LoPresti in state Senate race for Ewa Beach

Sophie Cocke
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The Hawaii State Senate discusses legislation at the state Capitol in Honolulu on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Sophia Yan)

Republican Kurt Fevella maintained a slim lead over Democrat Matt LoPresti for the open Senate seat representing Ewa and Ewa Beach, making him the only Republican in the Hawaii Senate. Fevella finished ahead by just 117 votes in final election returns.

The District 19 seat was left vacant when longtime senator 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 since 2014.

The two candidates 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 in which 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.

Democrat Sharon Moriwaki has easily beat Republican Lynn Barry Mariano, 70 percent to 30 percent.

This is the first race for Moriwaki, a faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and co-chair 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 during 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 U.S. Army major, works as a program manager at Camp Smith and is an adjunct professor at Chaminade University.

The state Senate has been solidly Democratic since Stanley Chang ousted Republican Sam Slom in 2016. The ouster marked a further decline of Hawaii’s Republican Party, which has struggled for decades. While Republican Party officials had hoped that the election of President Donald Trump would give them a boost locally, the opposite appears to be true with the president proving a decisive figure in local party politics.

The Republican Party was only able to field candidates in five of the 13 Senate races this year.

In other races involving a Republican challenger, Democratic Sen. Clarence Nishihara beat Republican Roger Clemente, for the District 17 seat representing Waipahu and Pearl City. Democratic incumbent Michelle Kidani triumphed over Republican Tony Solis for the District 18 seat representing Mililani, Waikele and Kunia. And Democratic Sen. Maile Shimabukuro 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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