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Special coverage of the 2020 general election airs and streams on Hawaii Public Radio beginning Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. Hear NPR analysis and local insights into the results and the aftermath airing on HPR-1 and streaming on hawaiipublicradio.org and our mobile app.

Alm, Kau Advance To November Run-Off For Honolulu Prosecutor

Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney

Honolulu voters have narrowed down a crowded city prosecutor's race to two candidates.

Steve Alm and Megan Kauwill face off for Honolulu prosecuting attorney this November. Both have experience at the office as prosecutors. And they both say they can lead the department into a new era, following a corruption scandal that forced Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro to take paid leave.

Alm led the field of seven candidates, claiming 35% of the votes.

He says the results proved voters want someone they can trust.

"I think voters are going to have confidence that I have experience, but also successful experience," Alm said.

"When I was at the prosecutor's office, I created a culture of high ethical standards and doing justice. I trained the deputies on how to be good trial attorneys, how to be ethical. And then the work of the U.S. Attorney and judge. So I think it's my effective leadership that is a big difference."

The race for second came down to Kau and public defender Jacquie Esser. Kau prevailed, drawing more than 20% of the votes.

Kau says the race for second was a tough one. But says she's confident she can convince voters that she's the right person for the job.

"I just need to go out and talk to people," Kau said. "I, very early on, realized that meeting people in person was my strength -- and talking about the prosecutor's office and the justice system.

"If I continue to do that, and talk to enough people, I think that we will be able to take the race in November."

Kau says there isn't that much of a difference between her and Alm. But she notes that she has more recent trial experience, which will help her train deputy prosecutors, win trials, and effectively lead the department.

Both Alm and Kau say that if they are elected, they will "hit the ground running."

While the night didn't turn Esser's way, she says her candidacy aimed to invoke change in the criminal justice system. To that end, she believes her campaign was successful.

"Whoever may prevail as the next prosecutor, I do hope that they take in mind that people do want a more fair and just system," she said. "A system that recognizes people are more than their worst act, and that they can change -- if we give them the right support and services."

Voters will choose the next city prosecutor on November 3.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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