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DeCoite and Walter Ritte wait out recount in state House race

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                                Walter Ritte


    Walter Ritte

                                Lynn DeCoite


    Lynn DeCoite

The state Office of Elections was holding a mandatory vote recount Monday in a too-close-to-call Democratic primary race between incumbent Rep. Lynn De­Coite and challenger Walter Ritte for the state House District 13 representing Lanai, Molokai, and Paia and Hana, Maui.

After voting closed at 7 p.m. Saturday and all votes were in, DeCoite had a 91-vote lead over Ritte.

A new state law, SB216, mandates recounts where there are 100 votes or less difference between candidates.

While recount results had not been posted as of 5:20 p.m. Monday, Nedielyn Bueno, spokeswoman for the elections office, said that, according to the law, recount results must be released no later than 72 hours after close of voting.

DeCoite finished with 3,243 votes, or 48.2%, to Ritte’s 3,152 votes, or 46.9%, according to the final printout at 11:38 a.m. Sunday.

Both candidates are Molokai residents.

Ritte, 75, an educator and lifelong environmental activist who lives with his family on Hawaiian homestead lands, was arrested last year while protesting the construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

He was a leader of the movement to stop U.S. military bombing practice on Kahoolawe, and participated in the 1978 Constitutional Convention that created the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, where he served as trustee from 1980 to 1984. In 2012, he ran unsuccessfully for OHA trustee-at-large.

Starting in the early 2000s Ritte led protests on Molokai against farming of genetically modified crops and advocated labeling of genetically modified organisms.

In a Honolulu Star-Advertiser candidate questionnaire last month, Ritte said his top priority if elected would be “dealing with the pandemic, get us to a better place with food security and an Aloha Aina Economy. “

DeCoite, 50, a rancher and farmer who supports the growing of genetically modified crops, was appointed to the District 13 seat by Gov. David Ige in 2015 and won election in 2016 and 2018. Before her appointment, she served on the Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance, Farm Service Agency and the Hawaii State Board of Agriculture.

Asked how she would diversify a pandemic-wracked Hawaii economy, DeCoite said she would promote agritourism to create markets and jobs for food growers.

In the Nov. 3 general election, the winner will face Robin Vanderpool, the sole Republican candidate, who received 304, or 38.3% of votes against 488 blank votes, and sole Aloha Aina party candidate Theresa Kapaku, who received 83, or 79%, of votes against 22 blank votes.

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