LIHUE —In the race for the final three seats of the Kauai County Council, only 125 votes separated the candidates.
According to the final printout, which was released just before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, JoAnn Yukimura, Arthur Brun and Mason Chock were separated by 0.1 percent.
Yukimura, incumbent, ended the election season with 11,072 votes, or 5.8 percent. She was closely followed by Brun, a new face to the council, who received 11,003 votes, or 5.8 percent. Mason Chock, incumbent, nabbed the seventh and final spot with 10,947 votes, or 5.7 percent.
“There were many good candidate choices this election and so I knew it would be a close one,” Chock said. “I believe that if ke akua wants me to be somewhere or do something, it will happen. Hard work and faith gives me peace knowing I’ve done all I can and the people will choose who they want to serve them.”
KipuKai Kuali’i, who was seeking another term on the council, didn’t make the cut, coming in eighth. He received 10,450 votes, or 5.5 percent. Almost 500 votes separated Kuali’i from Chock.
At the first printout, Kuali’i filled the fifth place. But as a seasoned politician, Kuali’i said he knows there can be unexpected results.
“I believe the primary reason for that is bullet voting or plunking,” he said. “While voters can select up to seven candidates, many vote for only two or three; and, some even bullet or plunk for just one.”
He believes the tight race for the final spots was the result of residents deciding some candidates don’t need their vote and bullet voting for their favorite.
“It’s just my opinion. But, to a certain degree, I think bullet voting or plunking hurts our overall democracy,” he said.
Having been through several election cycles, Yukimura, who came in eighth at the first printout, said she knows standings can change quickly.
“I thought it was quite possible that I would lose, and I was at peace with either result,” she said.
But, by the end of the night, Yukimura finished in fifth place.
“I am deeply grateful to be able to continue my work because there is so much more work to be done with affordable housing and homelessness, road repair and bus expansion, growth management and the General Plan Update,” she said.
Gary Hooser, the incumbent who finished the night behind Kuali’i, receiving 10,408 votes, or 4.1 percent, said he hopes he didn’t let any of his supporters down.
Only 42 votes separated Kuali’i and Hooser.
“The process is such that you give the campaign 110 percent, the people vote and decide, and then you move forward with the decision made by the voters,” he said. “As the results come in, the thoughts that are top of mind for me are primarily those of not wanting to disappoint or let others down who have worked so very hard in my support.”
Moving forward, Hooser said he will remain committed to being involved in the community. Specific areas of concern include environmental and health protection.
“Our community continues to face many challenges, and I am committed to remaining engaged in the efforts to resolve them,” he said. “I know and understand that for me personally there are many paths to service and when one door shuts, another always opens.”
It’s a sentiment Kuali’i echoes. He plans to continue working with the YWCA of Kauai and the Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association. He also plans to join the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and be a part of the General Plan Update discussions.
“Prior to the final results, I had already resolved that if we were not successful but still had a close eighth-place finish, I would run again as long as all my incredible family and our incredible supporters gave the OK. Thankfully they did,” he said.
Juno-Ann Apalla, who ended the night with 7,889 votes, or 4.1 percent, also has her sights set on the 2018 election.
“(Approximately) 7,889 people is a clear sign that there are things I offer that people want to see on the council,” she said. “We made it our goal to double our primary numbers. We surpassed our goal, which puts us in a strategic advantage for the 2018 elections. By then, we’ll have a whole generation ready to vote.”
Derek Kawakami, the former representative of state House District 14, came in first for the County Council race, receiving 15,990 votes, or 8.4 percent.