Handicapping the Kaua‘i council race

Read on for important voting instructions, plus a simple guide to some basic voting strategy when it comes to the Kaua‘i County Council election.

While August 8 is “primary election day,” the truth is every Kaua‘i registered voter should have already gotten a ballot in the mail, and some have already voted. To the procrastinators, please note the ballot must be received by August 8 and not simply mailed on that day.

The first choice all voters will have is to “select ONE political preference,” and then cast your votes for those candidates listed under that party. You can only vote for candidates in one party in the primary, and it must be the party you check off as your “ONE political preference.”

For example, if you attempt to vote for someone on the Democratic Party list after checking the box “Aloha Aina Party,” then your entire ballot will be thrown out. And if you attempt to vote for a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another, your ballot will also be thrown out.

In the November general election, you will then have a chance to vote for any person or party of your choice, but not in the primary. In the primary you can only vote within one single party.

Here at home, our state House and Senate legislators are all getting a free ride into the general election. None have any competition in the primary election. Rather than vote for them just because they are the only choice, I encourage voters to consider leaving the ballot blank unless you truly believe they are representing Kaua‘i and your district well.

Other “party-specific” choices on this same side of the ballot include the U.S. Congressional race CD 2. Remember, do not vote “cross party” or your ballot will be thrown out.

On the opposite side of the ballot are races for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Kaua‘i County Council.

For OHA, every voter has the opportunity to cast four votes, one in each of four categories: Hawai‘i Resident Trustee, Moloka‘i Resident Trustee, Kaua‘i Resident Trustee and At-Large Trustee.

Many voters find the OHA election confusing and often do not recognize the names, or believe they should only vote for “their island,” and/or believe that if they are not Hawaiian they should not vote at all. I suggest that people vote only if they are familiar with the candidate and resist simply guessing or choosing random names. But, to be clear, every voter in the state of Hawai‘i will elect via their votes, the person to represent these four seats.

The office of Kaua‘i county prosecutor is also one in which the incumbent has no opposition.

For the Kaua‘i County Council, the instructions say “Vote For Not More Than Seven (7).” This means you may vote for only one individual if you like, or two, or five or seven, any number less than seven, including zero.

Remember the lesson of “plunking.” The vote you cast as your sixth or seventh choice could be the vote that beats your fourth or fifth or even first choice. Please use your seven votes wisely and resist closing your eyes and throwing a dart, randomly voting for all seven even though you might only really like four or five.

If you have seven favorites, by all means vote for all seven. Or, as I’m feeling at the moment, perhaps focus on the handful of incumbents you really and truly support, and then vote for some of the “new candidates.”

There are 21 candidates running in the primary for election to the Kaua‘i County Council. The top 14 vote-getters in the primary will move on to the November general election.

Conventional political wisdom based on the performance in past elections is that “all the play” will be between Nos. five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10. So, if a candidate finishes in the top four slots in the primary, they are likely solid to win in the general. Likewise, if a candidate falls below 10th in the primary then it is highly unlikely they will “move up” to No. seven or better in the general.

So all the action will be on the six individuals falling between the fifth and 10th positions. The five incumbent council-members will no doubt fall into the top seven positions, and will be accompanied by former Mayor Bernard Carvalho. This I think you can take to the bank. As to which incumbents will be at the bottom of the list and thus vulnerable, I will leave that speculation to others.

To be clear, no incumbent is safe enough to sleep through to the general. Voters, while perhaps not overtly unhappy with the existing council, will no doubt be seeking fresh ideas and fresh energy. Consequently, at least one or possibly two newcomers have a genuine shot at winning in November.

Think about your vote before you cast it. Seek out the info you need to make a wise decision. Call and speak to the candidates directly, and ask them the tough questions. Then, focus on those incumbents you want to protect, and on those newcomers you want to help “move up.”

But whatever you do, don’t just guess.


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

  1. Citizen July 22, 2020 6:53 am Reply

    I got my ballot in the mail, and I also got two other ballots with different names and address on it. Great Job.

  2. Dt July 22, 2020 9:41 pm Reply

    My only council vote will be for Brun. A true politician, in the right place at the right time. Aurai

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