Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi was considered a rising star in Hawaii politics before voters knew what pCards were.
With criminal charges now behind him, what could his political future hold?
KHON2 spoke with Hawaii Pacific University professor and political analyst John Hart, who says Kenoi still has a good chance of being elected into office.
But the whole pCard issue will probably never go away.
Hart says it’s not that surprising that the jury reached a not-guilty verdict. He says the mayor’s popularity might have been too hard to overcome.
“Remember, this is an Oahu judge and Oahu attorneys going after a local boy,” Hart said. “People protect their own. I really think that for most people on the Big Island, carelessness with receipts, let us say, doesn’t concern them.”
Hart adds that a lot still depends on how Kenoi handles himself from here on and how the public perceives it.
“Does he show any remorse? Does he show any maturing or is it like Trump and he continues onward? We have to see what path he chooses and we have to see how the voters of Hawaii react to that,” he said.
Hart says there’s no doubt that Kenoi’s rise in politics has taken a stumble. He says there was talk of a possible run for the governor’s office or Congress.
But, he adds, Kenoi can still pursue those seats. It will just be more difficult to convince voters that he deserves to be elected.
“Will this be an election issue if he runs, yes it is,” Hart said. “Does a Big Island jury acquitting him means he can carry the Big Island? Not necessarily but it is certainly a good sign for him.”
As for the pCard issue, there’s now a heightened awareness. Always Investigating dug deeper into how the different counties manage their accounts, and there have been more efforts to help prevent abusing the system.
Kenoi still has two months left in office. He served two terms, so he was not eligible to run again.