Numbers tell an accurate election story

Underlying any election results— even those with very small electorates like Kauai’s that exhibit a remarkable indifference to voting — is the question: “What does it all mean?”

In the case of the Nov. 6 election this year, the most consequential local races in at least a generation, one answer is that some results are so clear as to offer no opportunity for controversy or disagreement. Numbers are numbers and what they say is undeniable.

First, the mayor’s race: Voters were presented with two very different choices. Derek Kawakami offered a future-focused platform. Mel Rapozo believed Kauai County spends beyond it means, can cut as much as 10 percent of its budget yet still afford to pave dozens of miles of former cane haul roads.

In the end, Kawakami’s vote totals can only be interpreted as mandate quality.

The incoming mayor:

• Captured more than 60 percent of the vote in all but one of the 16 precincts.

• Got 65 percent or more of the vote in six precincts and polled at 69 percent in four.

• Smoked Rapozo, who couldn’t muster 40 percent or more of the vote anywhere and received less than 30 percent in four precincts.

• Had a margin substantially higher than outgoing Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s 2014 victory over martial arts fighter and surfer Dustin Barca, who built his campaign around opposition to genetically modified agriculture and pesticide use. Not only did Barca do better than Rapozo in percentage terms — 34.1 percent to 30.9 percent — he received about 1,200 more actual votes than Rapozo.

In Kawakami’s case, the straight numbers tell us that this new mayor will take office with great confidence that he has the support of the entire county. Even more persuasive is that his victory was over a truly worthy opponent — an experienced and well-known County Council chair with nearly two decades of public service.

Then there’s Luke Evslin. Running for elective office for the first time in his life, the 30-something Evslin finished in the top five (of 14 candidates running) in eight precincts and in the top three in 11. He got more actual votes than two of the four incumbents running for reelection for an office for which incumbency is an even stronger credential than usual. He won three precincts outright — two in Kapaa and one in Koloa.

Some think it was Evslin’s reputation as a cerebral thinker whose personality borders on that of a policy wonk that worked for him. There is no denying that by choosing to focus the entire election on issues of housing and growth, Evslin correctly perceived what is most on the minds of voters.

But it did not hurt Evslin that his personal story made his candidacy come alive. His wife was pregnant with the couple’s second child and her due date was Election Day. The baby — a boy — waited a few days after the votes were counted before arriving, and is doing very well, Evslin said. He is himself a descendant of Holocaust survivors and his wife, Sokchea Eng Evslin, was born in a refugee camp after her family fled Cambodia.

Not only that, but the Evslins were living in a yurt through most of the campaign while the renovations on a newly purchased home in Lihue took backseat to the campaign.

And, several years ago, Evslin almost died when he was struck and grievously injured by a boat propeller. The episode — and the relationship to Evslin’s well-known role as a committed paddler — received (deservedly) enormous media coverage at the time and the connection people felt with him may well have helped carry him over the top in the election.

Money may be the mother’s milk of politics, but name recognition is also an important ingredient to a successful campaign. So Evslin started the campaign season in an enviable position. But his thoughtful campaign style capitalized on his preexisting notoriety.

I asked him what he thought accounted for his impressive first election victory.

“I can’t say I expected to do as well as I did,” he said, “I went into it expecting the worst, but I did try to run an islandwide campaign. I knew that in theory I would do well on the North Shore (where he’s from), so I put a lot of effort into other parts of the island.

“I thought I could take one message — on housing and growth — and talk to every single component of the electorate about that. I wasn’t trying to segment a message so different objectives were stressed with each group of voters. It was all one issue. I felt that resonated.

“It seems like there are certain types of campaigns built on divisiveness or pitting one segment against the other. I did my best to do the opposite. I think there’s a whole lot more that brings us together than divides us.”

If Kawakami and Evslin presented the clearest evidence of what victory is and how to achieve it, other candidates were also impressive.

Kilauea’s Felicia Cowden, for example, who ran and lost in 2014, was able to nudge her support up out of the confines of the North Shore enough to do better than respectably in places like Kapaa, Koloa, Kalaheo and Kekaha. She was clearly helped by not being trapped in the clutches of a one-issue candidacy that bedeviled her four years ago.

Her victory also achieved one other worthwhile goal — creating, at least for the next two years, County Council representation of the North Shore, which has been elusive for years.

But the election was not all good news necessarily. County Councilmember Ross Kagawa established that you can be reelected even if you don’t show up for a single community candidate forum and despite the fact that you introduced an unfortunately self-serving charter amendment to end term limits. Thankfully, it lost.

As this is being written, it appears that, even though Councilmember Mason Chock received more votes — 12,931 — than any other County Council candidate, he is being denied the role of chair because of political maneuvering by Councilmembers Arryl Kaneshiro and Kagawa, who will be chair and vice chair, respectively, as things seem to stand now.

That can’t take away from the reality that this was, indeed, a historic election. It needs to be followed by a historic period of political focus and public will for Kauai County. The new County Council convenes for the first time on Dec. 3, and Kawakami is inaugurated then, too. Hold on for the ride.

•••

Allan Parachini is a Kilauea-based freelance writer and furniture maker. He has more than 45 years’ experience in journalism.

7 Comments
  1. Richard S November 25, 2018 7:40 am Reply

    Just remember the biggest vote at the Council Race:

    54.577 Blank votes represent 30.2 per cent.


  2. Charlie Chimknee November 25, 2018 8:49 am Reply

    It appears that this article may have left out 2 other overwhelming contributions to Kaua’i elections and perhaps similar to most other County and State elections in any Democracy.

    1.) County and State employees and at least some of their family members, such as spouses, voting age children, parents and even cousins and friends are County Voters, and tend to vote back in incumbents, with considerations that the incumbent will be able to continue their, the employee voter’s, employment and possibly their advancement in the public employee system. The drawback of repeated incumbents is the lack of fresh ideas and new energy to make things happen for the benefit of the actual (even non-voting) majority of citizens. For example issues like affordable housing and traffic have been around for awhile and it seems won’t be going away anytime soon, though it appears that many born and raised Kauaians will be going away for affordability issues.

    So far with available open acreage on island, short lived cattle enjoy a better lifestyle and views than many of the humans.

    2.) it goes without saying that everywhere there are multi cultural (ethnicity) populations such as in large “melting pot” cities and small “melting pot” islands that people tend to vote for and elect their own people of same cultural “ties”. After all it is only natural and is what is done in most multi ethnic communities. It would be interesting anywhere to see elections outcomes based on mandatory voting by all eligible voters, and who are educated as to the issues, without silly written reverse thought writing and confusing descriptions of the issues to be voted on, as well as some knowledge of the candidates and their proposed future actions based on their campaign “promises”; as in not only what they are for, but how are they going to accomplish or get something done.

    So far all candidates talk up affordable housing and the traffic problems…but who among them have reasonable and doable solutions.
    It seems raising property density for a few to R-40 will house a few more people and bring in greater income to a few landlords in LIHUE; but while concentrating more housing in LIHUE and lessening traffic for those who choose or must live and work in LIHUE, Living and/or working in LIHUE is not everyone’s first choice of lifestyle compared to the many other on island districts one can spend their working and living years in.

    This brings up the often mentioned County Council election by Districts, which would give smaller communities a greater representation just like in the US Senate where a small state like Hawaii gets equal representation to a state like California with more than 30 times Hawaii’s population.

    That would mean on Kauai that the Westside and Northshore could elect their own and be represented as strongly as Kapa’a or LIHUE. It’s a little hard to tell though not knowing just what district each candidate is from.

    This article would have been more helpful had it included just what are the voting districts on Kaua’i and what towns are in each district. Even people born and raised on Kaua’i don’t have a clue about that.

    Also many readers would think that the top vote getter would be the next County Council Chairperson, but the article seems to be saying that that won’t be the case and another incumbent will take that position. Is there a reason for this, like Mason Chock is declining the position? It would be good for us to know the reason that Mr. Chock may not be the Chairman.

    The article was very informative, I’m sure many are excited about the future as it will be steered by our current and newly elected leaders.

    Mahalo,

    Charles


  3. Jose Bulatao November 25, 2018 11:47 am Reply

    Political “intrigues’ or whatever happens behind closed doors are part and parcel of the realities in public-service positions! If Mason Chock, who received the MOST votes among those vying for the 7 council seats in this election, it would be a shame if he doesn’t get that position because of such intrigues. It will be interesting to see how the votes will line-up in garnering key positions!


  4. I saw a Vampire once November 25, 2018 12:51 pm Reply

    Mel Rapozo was a cop. Mason Chock a firemen. Ross Kagawa a UH college baseball player. Bernard P. Carvalho jr. was a UH football player. And to top it off, Lance Tominaga wrote a book on them. Catch the Dream, Rise of the Rainbow Warriors. I’d say they are a bunch of clowns. Wasting everyone’s time and money. Automation.

    Indifferent? My level of satisfaction is equal as everyone else. Why vote? If not, just call the county council what they deserve to be called, crap.


  5. I saw a Vampire once November 25, 2018 1:11 pm Reply

    You have a degree right? That is to write. That is what you do. They have a degree also. That is to fit themselves into culture, and make sure the culture makes them into political leaders. By way of the election, they become community leaders.

    I also have a degree. Make sure I point out why they cannot get paid. Why they have done no work. And why the public at large do not trust the county council’s report. It is because all of them are not quality discussions. They cannot base any real work on lame discussions. Automation has taken care of the fact that these men are puppets. dummys. Doing nothing but playing the part. They only want to represent what they came here for, to grab hold of culture and make sure culture places them in. But they are not leaders, so culture could not possibly follow them.


  6. rk669 November 25, 2018 6:34 pm Reply

    Will Kawakami sell out Kauaians to the highest Campaign Doner?


  7. hutch November 25, 2018 9:02 pm Reply

    Kagawa won the local racist vote. His whole ‘platform’ was based on animosity towards whites. His alliance with Kaneshiro is similarly based on deep-seated local prejudice. Aloha my butt.


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