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3 men and a lady — the mayor’s race

Up until yesterday, most residents when asked would have said it was a “three man race” for the office of Kauai mayor, if asked today, most would agree that it has now become a three man and one woman contest.

This is not to denigrate the other two candidates who are also in the race, as the truth is there are 4 men and 2 women who have declared themselves candidates for Kauai mayor in the 2018 elections: Derek Kawakami, Debra Kekaualua, Lenny Rapozo, Mel Rapozo, Clint Yago and JoAnn Yukimura.

But elections are normally won or lost on name recognition, and in reality the general voting public is familiar with only a few of these names. Barring unusual circumstances that launch one of the lesser names forward into the spotlight, the race for Mayor will be dominated by those candidates who have a baseline of name recognition from the start.

To be clear: Either Clint Yago or Debra Kekaualua could also become Kauai’s next mayor, but the odds are heavily, heavily stacked against them.

However, it is without question that the announcement of councilmember and former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura throwing her hat into the ring, has made this contest a whole lot more interesting. With solid credentials and a long and strong history on issues pertaining to environmental protection and managed growth, she is a formidable addition to the race.

The nature of Kauai’s nonpartisan mayoral race is such that barring someone achieving “50 percent plus 1” in the Aug. 11th primary (which ain’t gonna happen in this race), the top two vote getters will then face off in the General Election on Nov. 6.

My guess is that JoAnn Yukimura will be one of those two who survive the Aug. 11 showdown.

Many residents have, for the past several weeks, bemoaned the perceived lack of choice among the three men who have thus far dominated the discussion: Councilmember and former state representative Derek Kawakami, Council chair Mel Rapozo and the County Parks Director Lenny Rapozo.

None of the three are viewed as particularly “progressive” nor have any of them demonstrated an inclination to go to the mat in support of environmental protection (or go to the mat on anything frankly). In terms of tangible accomplishments, Yukimura can cite a long list (Sunshine Markets, The Bus, Affordable Housing Projects etc), while the others will be hard pressed to do the same.

In politics, tangible accomplishments are political gold, but often hard to come by as the day-to-day mundane business of running government, passing budgets, paving roads (or not) consumes the majority of time and energy.

In past elections, I learned the phrase “What is Chinatown saying?” which translates to what are the odds of various candidates winning (yes, apparently in Chinatown gamblers give odds and people bet real money on real political races — all very illegal).

My guess is that last week “Chinatown” would have been giving the nod to Derek Kawakami who benefits from a family legacy of success in business and in politics, and is the more genteel and polished of the group. And, my guess is that they would also have placed Mel Rapozo as coming in second in the primary. Then both would have faced off in the General Election with the third-place finisher Lenny Rapozo’s voters then swinging to … Mel Rapozo?

My how things have changed in a single day. The question now becomes, “Who does Yukimura pull from?” If we assume she is one of the two that makes it through the primary, who will be the other?

Critics and armchair quarterbacks will in the coming months attack, belittle, throw stones and point out oftentimes with unnecessarily harsh directness, the shortcomings of each candidate, all of whom are, of course, imperfect human beings like the rest of us. This is the ugly but some would say necessary part of the political process.

My hope is that our community can dwell on the positives. I for one am thankful and offer my respect to each man and woman who has chosen to put their name forward and run for this office, and the others under contention as well.

Like residents throughout the island, I will also be asking questions and weighing the answers against the history each brings to the table.

For today however, as a friend used to say, “It’s fun to speculate.” And yes, it is fun indeed.

But at the end of the day, it is serious business as to who will lead our county as mayor for the next four years. Today, we can have some fun and speculate. But tomorrow, we must ask each candidate the tough questions and examine each candidates past accomplishments and actions. Then, we must make a choice based on that close examination.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. harryoyama2 April 4, 2018 4:20 am Reply

    One primary indicator on where these politicians stand is to investigate their major contributors and of course their financial ties to both those in politics and business. The voting public is only warranted as a means of getting elected, once in, they become short term memory until the next election.

  2. Bluedream April 4, 2018 7:51 am Reply

    Whacky Joanne will only take votes away from that nut job Debra K since they are both “progressives”. Derek will win with over 50 percent in the primary. He is fiscally responsible and he is a class act who sets a good example for everyone on Kauai. Mel has really matured into a great lawmaker, but Derek has solid business and state gov experience too.

  3. Susan Dixon April 4, 2018 10:58 am Reply

    I applaud Yukimura’s entrance into the race for Kauai mayor. She’s done it before and she’s needed to do it again. So though I am far away and can’t cast my vote for her, Yukimura’s deliberate manner and good heart would be so good for what ails the island.

  4. ELIEL STARBRIGHT April 4, 2018 11:07 am Reply

    Well Said Gary! You brought Clarity to how it works here on Kauai!

  5. Debra Kekaualua April 4, 2018 12:31 pm Reply

    mAhalo, GH for a really nice publishing. Acknowledging my candidacy is pretty much all the promoting i will do, as im running in place, not actively fundraising or the like. I am banking that those that remember me and know who i am and what i have added to our community will also acknowledge my status! Example Hurricane Iniki, Rice Street, Central Answering Service Had ten working telepone lines of fifty pair cable. All radio towers, even civil defense was rendered useless. So, i walked up to the county civil defense bunkers, a block away, delivered that information to the team, left my office door wide open, and trucked it past wilcox hospital, where throughout the night i was mandatory personell tring to get to homesteads to view the casualties! mEh. The recovery was the second time tenants were replaced by plumbers, elictricians, contractors, and Central Answering Service had doubled the client base in two weeks becoming so successful that we got to experience the Hawaiian dream. I know many of these companies were made millionairs by my covering their businesses, while they were out in the field. Car phones and my investment in voicepagers was all we had in our communication cache, 24-7-365 LIVE voice 25-years, as well as, full time medical transcription air ambulance, medical records. Then, advancing further into CDL, driving tours, the kauai bus and much much more! i look forward to DEBates! Other than that, i really do not anticipate being hired, but will run with whatever the People say they want! I am the Peoples mayor wannabe

  6. Imua44 April 4, 2018 2:40 pm Reply

    Da Hoos has finally made some sense. Joanne is a true tax and spend. She is in the pocket of rich mainlander. She and Gary both have forgotten that Kauai people are from Ag. Joanne has protested against PMRF, hotels and housing. She is against local housing and employment. She is for taxes, government control, more laws and big fat government pensions.

  7. No_They_Didn't April 4, 2018 3:13 pm Reply

    You forgot two others, Yago & Debra Kekaulua. 6 candidates for mayor.

    P. Carvalho Jr. Thinks he can tackle the state capitol, Honolulu. Too slow!

  8. Steve Martin April 4, 2018 6:24 pm Reply

    The odds are totally stacked against them . I’ll bet Gary said the same thing about Donald Trump. It shows when you only know how to think comes from the political party box.

  9. manawai April 4, 2018 11:31 pm Reply

    Debra K. – What have you added to the community other than your hate speech here in the GIN comments over the years? Ya, we won’t ever forget that.

  10. Charityorlobbyist April 6, 2018 6:06 am Reply

    Why should Hoosier go to the Kauai Council and give his testimony? Well, he would probably have to register as a lobbyist first, and that might also( or should) affect the Section 501(c)(3) standing of his “charity” as well. Besides, TGI continues to give this has been all the coverage he asks for. The Kauai voters decided they had enough of this pontificating phony 2 years ago and showed him the door! Good Choice! But Hoosier has yet to reveal the tax returns of his “charity” to the public, so we can see how many mainland special interest groups donate, and make it possible for him to “donate” his time to his “charity”

  11. manawai April 8, 2018 12:02 pm Reply

    According to IRS disclosure regulations, exempt organizations must make its three most recently filed annual Form 990 or 990-PF returns (or “990s”) and all related supporting documents available for public inspection. This public disclosure rule also applies to Form 1023, which is filed to obtain exempt status.
    Well, Gary??? Where are they? Transparency? Public disclosure? Or fakery?

  12. manawai April 8, 2018 12:07 pm Reply

    Here’s a link to HAPA’s 2016 Return showing doners,

  13. Tom Niblick April 8, 2018 1:32 pm Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful insights Gary. There have been only two local politicians I consider worthy of respect. You are one and JoAnn is the other. This island has been run on nepotism and good old boy privilege for far too long. Even though JoAnn is part of the old guard, she has always had the best interest of the aina in her heart… something I cannot say for the other candidates. She is definitely not a good old boy. And she may rub some people the wrong way, but JoAnn is without a doubt the most trustworthy and experienced candidate. She has my vote.

  14. Brad June 25, 2018 5:04 pm Reply

    It’s a Yukimura vs. Kawakami runoff.

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