Dem’s Valenciano throws support behind Kouchi

County Councilmember Randal Valenciano has thrown his support behind Council Chair Ron Kouchi in Kouchi’s bid for mayor.

Valenciano finished third behind Kouchi and fellow Councilman Bryan Baptiste in the primary election mayor’s race, receiving 3,906 votes, to 7,043 for Baptiste and 6,606 for Kouchi.

The two top vote-getters advanced to the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election, with the winner there becoming the next mayor.

Though the county races are considered nonpartisan, both Kouchi and Valenciano are Democrats, and Baptiste is Republican.

“I am going to be a loyal Democrat,” Valenciano said Monday. “That means I’m going to support the Democratic candidates, and that includes Ron.”

Before Friday’s high school football game, Valenciano held signs for Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, the Democratic candidate for governor.

After Valenciano’s disappointing showing in the mayoral primary, he was approached by both Kouchi and Baptiste, seeking Valenciano’s support in the general election, Valenciano said.

At the time, immediately after the primary, Valenciano asked the candidates to give him some time to think about his political future, and speak to his family and supporters about their feelings.

His initial reaction, beginning on election night, was to step back and not be involved at all in any campaigns for the general election, Valenciano said.

After thinking about it for awhile, though, and realizing the Democratic Party gave him opportunities to participate in elected politics, he decided it was appropriate for him to try to assist other Democratic candidates, he said.

“Ron has always been, publicly, a Democratic candidate, and so have I,” Valenciano said.

It has been common street wisdom that whoever does the best job of corralling Valenciano supporters will be the next mayor.

“The chunk you want to go after” are the ones who supported him in the primary, Valenciano said. “How they split the 3,900 (votes) is significant.”

Kouchi said he is “very grateful” for Valenciano’s support, and also glad that Valenciano has decided to get involved instead of sitting back, being angry or upset over his primary results.

Kouchi and Valenciano grew up together, and Kouchi said he has always had “tremendous respect” for Valenciano. Unfortunately, the three councilmembers all decided they wanted to serve as mayor at the same time, Kouchi said.

While it’s important for Kouchi’s campaign to get Valenciano’s support, it would be “foolhardy” to think that the mayor’s race is over because Valenciano has chosen to support Kouchi, said Kouchi.

Baptiste could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Valenciano said he doesn’t expect to take an active role in any campaign, but will offer support to all Democratic candidates.

Kouchi, who recently received the Hawaii Government Employees Association endorsement that Valenciano had before the primary election, said his campaign workers have been “energized” to work even harder as a result of support from the union and Valenciano.

His campaign organization is still deciding how to best utilize Valenciano’s help, Kouchi said.

“I’m very happy and pleased to get their support,” Kouchi said of the HGEA endorsement. The union gave Kouchi its support in each of his council campaigns, he added.

The other HGEA-endorsed candidates on Kaua’i ballots are the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink for U.S. Congress in the seat representing rural O’ahu and the Neighbor Islands; Hirono for governor, and state Sen. Matt Matsunaga for lieutenant governor; and Councilmember Gary Hooser for the state Senate seat which effective this election encompasses all of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau.

All are Democrats.

The union also backs the Democratic incumbents in the state House seats of Kaua’i and Ni’ihau: Rep. Mina Morita, Rep. Ezra Kanoho, and Rep. Bertha Kawakami.

For council, the HGEA endorsements remain the same as its primary picks: Councilmember Kaipo Asing, Councilmember Daryl Kaneshiro, Ernie Moniz, Joe Munechika, Ray Paler, Mel Rapozo and Councilmember Jimmy Tokioka.

All but Tokioka are Democrats. Tokioka is a Republican.

Finally, the HGEA recommends “no” votes on three proposed amendments to the state constitution.

There are 2,648 members of the HGEA on Kaua’i.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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