First, congratulations to all those who ran for county council and mayor posts and had their name on the ballot in Saturday’s primary election. It’s a sign of commitment and caring to your community when you take time and effort to seek public office. Win or lose, you deserve credit for standing up for what you believe in.
On the subject of campaigns, we can’t help but notice that six of the top seven vote getters were incumbents. To recap: Mel Rapozo, 9,592; Ross Kagawa, 9,387; Arryl Kaneshiro, 8,173; JoAnn Yukimura, 7,252; Jay Furfaro, 6,642, Gary Hooser, 6,642 and Tim Bynum, 5,839. The only current councilmember who did not garner enough votes to finish in the top seven was Mason Chock, 10th with 4,672 votes.
With the recent public outcry over property tax bills and with the council approving tax increases on properties, vehicles and trash in its most recent budget, one might have expected there to be some backlash for the incumbents. With the community division over how to deal with GMOs and seed companies, one would have thought this primary election was an opportunity for several challengers to gain a foothold.
But that would have been wrong.
The incumbents all advanced to the general election in November. Only challenger Kaneshiro was able to break into the top seven when he received the third-most votes. KipuKai Kualii came in eighth, trailing Bynum by 314 votes. After that, Police Chief Darryl Perry was ninth, nearly a 1,000 votes behind Bynum for the seventh and final council spot. So, what can we take from this? It seems, despite the tax increases, the incumbents still have strong support and voters are still happy with their performance. Name recognition and familiarity go a long way with voters.
There was a lot of talk about voting out the incumbents after the most recent property tax bills left some people stunned about the dramatic increase in their taxes, but the majority of voters stayed with the officials who approved the tax changes.
No doubt, newcomers face a difficult task to break into the council. In an at-large system, a newcomer is, in essence, running against all seven incumbents. Election by district gives newcomers more of a chance to campaign not just on their abilities, but how they compare against a specific councilmember. But we won’t get into election at-large versus election by district, except to say at-large is an advantage for incumbents.
That said, the remaining newcomers who finished in the top 14 to advance to the general election, Kualii (5,525), Perry (4,902), Arthur Brun (4,577), Felicia Cowden (4,524), Billy DeCosta, (4,243) and Tiana Laranio, (3,754) have an opportunity to seek the support of those who voted for the six challengers who did not get through the primary. To have a chance, they’ll need those votes. They’ll need to campaign harder and make it clear who they are, what they stand for and why they deserve your vote instead of longtime leaders holding council seats.
Let’s chat about the mayor’s race. Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. clearly has the support of Kauai. He received 11,151 votes, nearly 58 percent. Residents like the mayor and the way he does his job. Congrats must go to the mayor for such a loyal and strong following. Considering the beating that Gov. Neil Abercrombie took from challenger David Ige, it’s obvious incumbents don’t automatically get a pass. There is no doubt, based on primary results, voters approve of the mayor’s performance.
Dustin Barca, the mayor’s opponent in the general election, received 5,957 votes, nearly 31 percent. In one sense, that’s not a great showing. But in another, considering he’s the challenger, did little campaigning and has never run for public office, it’s a solid showing that he received almost 6,000 votes in the primary. On election night, Barca said he plans to pick up the pace in his campaign for the general election, which is what he’ll have to do to have a chance in November.
In summary, when considering the results of the primary that saw nearly 50 percent voter turnout, we can only take away that most voters are happy with the county and its elected leaders, and it’s likely that satisfaction will carry over into the general election.