Mayoral candidate Mel Rapozo spent election day cruising the island with supporters in an RV decked out with his campaign logo and blasting the ‘Rocky’ theme song, ‘Gonna Fly Now.’
But the day ended on a somber note, as Rapozo was edged out of the running by fellow Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and county Parks and Recreation
Director Bernard Carvalho.
Rapozo came in third, with 4,176 votes, effectively ending his campaign. In his bid for mayor, Rapozo has forfeited his council seat.
Carvalho captured almost 40 percent of the vote, and Yukimura followed with just shy of 30 percent. Both will move on to the general election.
As a six-year council member, Rapozo has earned a reputation for speaking his mind and scrutinizing policy for liabilities. But in the primary, where the rubber meets the road, he was one of two candidates left behind.
Last night Rapozo expressed his disappointment, but said his opponents ran a clean race, which was what he had hoped for.
“The people on Kaua’i have spoken,” he said.
The hardest part, according to the 43-year-old, is sharing the news with supporters, volunteers and campaign contributors, to whom he extended his thanks.
Rapozo’s team was up at 6 a.m. yesterday holding signs in Lihu’e. He said the several hundred volunteers over the course of the campaign to date were key to keeping costs down.
“We don’t have the money that many mayoral campaigns had,” he said yesterday.
Rapozo said he worked hard to get his message out in different ways, including holding a number of coffee hour talks to reach out to voters.
Rapozo raised $56,000, according to the most recent state Campaign Spending Commission disclosure report published Sept. 5. His campaign spent almost $40,000.
He trailed Yukimura, who raised almost $60,000, also as of Sept. 5. But neither could keep up with Carvalho, who raised just over $100,000.
The fourth mayoral candidate, Rolf Bieber, didn’t receive any contributions.
As for hitting the campaign trail, Rapozo said it was educational to hear the community’s concerns in a new forum.
Michael Tresler, a Rapozo supporter, and a Grove Farm executive, said his friend has been a proven and decisive leader.
“He’s able to hear what the majority out in the community want and what is important to them,” Tresler said when asked why he threw his support in Rapozo’s corner.
In addition to his council service, Rapozo represents the county on a state and national level. He has served as president of the Hawai’i State Association of Counties for the past two consecutive terms, and a director of the National Association of Counties, Western Interstate Region.
Rapozo, a former Kaua’i police sergeant and Hawai’i Air National Guard member, did not receive an endorsement from the Hawai’i Organization of Police Officers. The organization instead sided with Carvalho.
He did, however, receive the Hawai’i Fire Fighters Association’s approval in August.
The longtime public servant says he’ll return to his private investigator business once he vacates his council seat. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of his political career.
“I’m definitely considering (running again),” Rapozo said, adding that it’ll be a question of when and for what office.