While I’m sure Council Chair Mel Rapozo will put up a valiant fight, the bookies in Chinatown are no doubt giving heavy odds in favor of Councilmember Derek Kawakami being elected Kauai’s next mayor on Nov. 6 in the general election.
But, as those who follow these things well know, anything can happen.
Coming out of the Aug. 11 primary election with 48 percent for Derek Kawakami and 22 percent for Mel Rapozo, means Rapozo will have to get all of Lenny Rapozo’s votes and all of JoAnn Yukimura’s votes just to start breaking even.
The likelihood of this happening seems slim. But you just never know.
As we speak, the Mel Rapozo team is probably deep into developing their strategy. We can only imagine the conversation as the different options are discussed.
Typically in an election of this nature, there will be an inclination by some on the campaign team to “go negative” as without “bringing his votes down” and weakening the support of the stronger candidate, all the positive talk in the world will not sufficiently build the votes needed to overcome the candidate ensconced firmly at the top. Others on the team will loudly protest that this strategy is “not Kauai’s way” and caution that it will backfire.
Where will JoAnn Yukimura’s supporters go? That is the question everyone who follows Kauai politics is likely asking. For if they swing to Kawakami early, then this race is already over. No doubt, at this very moment the Rapozo team is frantically trying to figure out how to garner her support.
Taking into consideration the manner in which she has been treated over the last few years on the council, I would say good luck but don’t hold your breath on this strategy.
As to the Kawakami strategy, it is simple and basic — steady as she goes. He will keep smiling and shaking hands, he will keep raising and spending money, and he will avoid at all costs, doing anything foolish or taking any risks.
As to the top 14 council candidates:
It was no surprise to see Arryl Kaneshiro and Mason Chock at the number one and number two slots, respectfully. I was somewhat surprised to see Ross Kagawa hanging on to number three, while the big winner of the night was no doubt first time candidate Luke Evslin who finished in a strong number four position, ahead of a sitting councilmember Arthur Brun at number five. Former councilmember Kipukai Kualii finished in the number six position with Felicia Cowden gaining the all important last and final position number seven.
At the bottom of the pile, we have Adam Roversi sitting in the #14 slot preceded by Kanoe Ahuna at #13, Milo Spindt at #12, Shaylene Iseri at #11, Juno Apalla at #10, Billie DeCosta at #9 and Norma Doctor Sparks, just out of the money in position #8.
The big surprises in this group are that Milo Spindt and Shaylene Iseri finished so poorly. Milo was probably the first candidate to start campaigning and has been very active around the county putting up signs and banners. And of course Shaylene Iseri is the former county prosecutor and also served on the Kauai County Council, so her name recognition is stronger than most.
My predictions: Kaneshiro and Chock will remain firmly embedded at the top. Kagawa and Brun will drop in the standings as voters start looking more closely at what they have done or not done on the council. But the truth is, that unless they take their campaigns for granted and attempt to coast through the next few months, they are still likely to get reelected.
Evslin will remain high and strong in the standings, while Cowden and Sparks will both rise a notch or two.
Kipukai, who has run in many elections, does not always finish strong. Given the community’s desire for new energy and new leadership, I suspect he will also drop in the standings. Iseri likewise seems to have peaked-out and to many in the community represents a past council they would rather forget.
DeCosta and Apalla are in a decent position to move up, but the slots above them are already crowded with others equally as hungry to serve on the council.
While historically it is extremely difficult for a candidate to rise from #14 or #13 into the top 7, Adam Roversi got a very late start in the primary, as did Kanoe Ahuna. Both are potentially strong candidates and either could break the mold and plow through to the top 7, if they are able to turn up the steam and run very strong campaigns during the next few months.
At the end of the day, except perhaps for the incumbents, those who win seats to the Kauai County Council on Nov. 6 will be those who want it the most and who are willing to do the work needed to get there.
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.