Newcomers, veterans among top 14 in council race

LIHU’E — Familiar faces and names seemed to have the edge Saturday when voters filled 14 slots for the General Election County Council race.

Five of the seven top vote-getters are incumbents or had previously served on the council.

Just 51.2 percent of registered voters went to the polls, making this year’s low turnout nearly a record. On the other hand, this year’s absentee and walk-in voting was at a record high, with nearly 6,300 absentee votes cast.

First-timers Jay Furfaro (R) and Mel Rapozo (N) made it into the top seven spots.

The other five in the top seven include old hands Bill “Kaipo” Asing (D), JoAnn Yukimura (D), Daryl Kaneshiro (D), James Kunane Tokioka (R) and Maurice “Joe” Munechika (R).

William “Kaipo” Asing’s strong showing was no surprise to Kaua’i voters as he’s served on the council for 20 years, was the top man in this primary election with 10,822 votes. Asing has placed in the top three in every primary and general election since 1992.

“It is a surprise because I just don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m not looking for anything, I just hope I can do as well as I’m doing now, and if that happens I’ll be very happy. I feel very comfortable now, and it’s heading in a very good direction for me,” Asing said from his home in Lihu’e.

Yukimura, with 10,541 votes, was the no. 2 vote-getter. Yukimura, Kaua’i’s mayor from 1988-94 and a councilwoman from 1976-80 and 1984-88, has said she again sought a council position because she has the experience to lead.

“I just didn’t know really what to expect,” she said, “the reception on the streets was really warm, but you don’t know.”

“I’m very thrilled with the result,” she said, “A lot of things can happen.”

On the low voter turnout, Yukimura noted that things are being determined by about 20 percent of the population. She said that after Sept. 11, a lot of people were talking about preserving our way of life, and she said she feels that a key part of that is who we choose as leaders.

James Tokioka (R), incumbent councilman, received the third-highest amount of votes, with 8,381.

Daryl Kaneshiro (D), 53, was the first candidate to pick up nomination papers this year and started his campaign early, which he attributed to getting the fourth-highest number of votes. Getting the no. 4 spot is a happy sign for him, as he ended up in 8th place in his last two primary elections.

“You never know. Even though I was number 8, that’s what gave me the encouragement to work hard and get out there and be able to do good in the general,” Kaneshiro said from his home in ‘Oma’o.

“I think now after four years the people have seen my record and I am able to work with anyone, any of the council members for the benefit of Kaua’i,” he said.

Furfaro, 53, came in fifth place. “It’s not over yet. We’re very thankful that there’s been that kind of support for us,” he said, “but this is the primary; and we’ve got six weeks to go, and four precincts left tonight.”

Maurice “Joe” Munechika (D), made it into 5th place. He served on the council from 1986-94. “I’m really grateful for the people of Kauai and Ni’ihau…It’s been awhile since I ran for office and I’m just thankful that people remembered me and my accomplishments on the council,” Munechika said.

“I think I can bring a lot of experience to the council,” Munechika said. Munechika said he will keep working harder, hoping to hold the position that he’s got, and hopefully to improve on it.

Mel Rapozo came in 7th place, about 1,000 votes ahead of John Barretto. At 38, Rapozo is the youngest of the top seven candidates in the primary election.

John F. Barretto (R), 68, came in 8th place. He was appointed to the council in 1982, elected in 1984 and lost a bid for mayor in 1986. A longtime councilmember who ran unsuccessfully for reelection in recent years, is also moving forward to the general election in the 8th spot.

Ernest Moniz, 53, came in 9th. Moniz’ political experience includes helping coordinate a mayoral campaign for the late Jimmy Tehada, a longtime councilmember who lost a push for mayor in the 1990s. He has worked for the county in the Fire Department for more than 30 years, as a firefighter and now a battalion chief.

Ray Chuan (N), a longtime political activist, came in 10th place. Ray Paler (D), took no. 11. George Menor, a former planning commissioner, got votes for 12th place.

Erick T.S. Moon (D) came in 13th, about 413 votes ahead of Rhoda Libre (D).

“I went against Senator Jonathan Chun’s mandate, and went out on the streets and waved signs,” he said, “It means I’ve got a shot now. I got this far, so that’s the important thing.”

Rhoda Libre, with 2,380 votes came in less than 100 votes above the 15th highest vote-getter, Gregory Smith. John Hoff, in his first-ever election, came in 16th.

Carol Bain came in 17th place, followed by Wallace Rezentes (D) in 18th place, saying that not enough campaigning was his downfall. “Once somebody told me I was in 17th place with 80% of the votes, I kind of believed that that was how it was going to turn out,” he said.

“I think there’s a really good crew in the top eight or nine places. I wish them well. I enjoyed the experience and I enjoyed meeting new people. I just wish I could have worked harder, but it was not meant to be.”

Kaleo Hookano (N) came in 19th, with Scott Sagum (D), Anne Punohu (D), Eduardo Valenciana (N), Kenneth F. Stokes (N), Bob Cariffe (N), Lance Miyao (N), Robert Measel, Jr. (R), Peggy “Tutu Peggy” Field (N), Deborah “Jo B” Spence (N), and Gregory Norby (N) rounding out the field.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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