LIHUE — Choices.
That is what several top finishers in this year’s Kauai County Council race say voters made clear on Saturday, when they cast their ballots in this year’s primary election.
In all, 20 County Council candidates faced off in this year’s primary election. With 15 of 16 precincts reporting, all seven incumbents, Jay Furfaro, JoAnn Yukimura, Mason Chock Sr., Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, moved on.
The challengers who also advanced were Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kualii, Darryl Perry, Felicia Cowden, Arthur Brun, Bill “Billy” DeCosta, and Tiana Laranio.
County Council incumbent Mel Rapozo, who placed fourth in the 2012 primary election race for County Council, took the top spot in this year’s primary race by the third print out of the night at 9 p.m. with 6,223 votes.
Rapozo said he has never placed among the top three finishers for County Council and has heard his share of criticism during his time in office. But the outcome of the election, he said, sent a clear message to him.
“I always felt confident that, when I voted, I was always voting in the best interest of the community,” Rapozo said. “It’s very hard to explain that feeling of validation — it affirms to me that I’m on the right track.”
Arryl Kaneshiro, who is running for public office for the first time, placed third in the election with 5,345 votes as of 9 p.m. Kaneshiro said that he did not know what to expect as the primary approached.
“My expectations were low — if I could make top 14, I would’ve been happy,” Kaneshiro said from his election night party at Kauai Foreign Cars in Puhi. “It feels unbelievable and I’m just so happy with all of the support that I’ve been getting. It’s just a real testament to the hard work that they’ve been putting in. I think people are looking for a change and a lot of people are wanting to make change, so it’s a good thing that there are a lot of candidates running this year.”
Challenger Felicia Cowden, who received 4,297 votes, said she was full of gratitude and will continue to reach out to community members over the next three months.
“I really thank all the people who have supported me,” she said. “I am committed to continuing being there at the meetings and events and meeting people.”
Ross Kagawa, who placed second with 6,189 votes by 9 p.m., said he “was hoping for a strong finish in the primary” but also felt unsure of where he stood.
“I kind of relate it to a football game — it’s only half time and football games are won in the third and fourth quarter, so we’ve got a long way to go,” Kagawa said.
Incumbent JoAnn Yukimura, who finished fourth with 4,343 votes by 9 p.m., said she was “very grateful” — both that Hurricane Iselle didn’t come and that she made the Top 7 — and stressed the importance of local elections.
“These decisions are far-reaching decisions in terms of what our island looks like, whether we’re able to find jobs and housing, issues of health and well-being,” she said. “I just want to thank everybody that voted, and especially those who supported my candidacy.”
Fellow incumbent Gary Hooser, who placed seventh with 3,457 votes, said he “is happy and pleased to be in the top seven.”
“It’s probably where I was in the last race,” Hooser said. “There’s three months left and a lot of work ahead for everybody, so I think that can change.”
Challengers who didn’t advance to the general election were Sandi Kato-Klutke, Joanne Georgi, Joseph Kaauwai Jr., Ernest “Ernie” Kanekoa, Arnold Leong and Ron Horoshko.