Barring a major screw-up or an act of God – the top four vote-getters in Saturday’s primary election for Kaua‘i County Council seem to be a lock for the general.
Kudos to Councilmember (CM) Mason Chock for once again coming out on top in the No. 1 position, garnering 12,196 votes. Close on his heels in second was CM Luke Evslin running in his first reelection bid at 12,046, following in third was Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro at 11,503, and in fourth, former Mayor Bernard Carvalho who breezed in seemingly effortlessly with a comfortable 11,097.
The next three making it into the all-important top seven slots; CM KipuKai Kuali‘i with 9,470; CM Felicia Cowden at 8,671; and newcomer to the top seven list, “Don’t be silly, vote for Billy,” Billy DeCosta at 7,340.
So…Chock, Evslin, Kaneshiro and Carvalho can cruise through the next few months, though they must do so without appearing to do so or take the voter for granted.
Kuali‘i, Cowden and most of all DeCosta must, however, crank it up a notch or two, or three, if they hope to maintain their top seven status.
Continuing with the numbers game, the next in line at eighth, with 1,564 separating her from DeCosta is Jade Wai‘ale‘ale Battad with 5,776 votes. Next in ninth is Addison Bulosan, close on Battad’s heels, with 5,647, a deficit of only 129 votes (but still 1,693 from No. 7 DeCosta).
Conventional political wisdom and historical precedent says that the remaining race for the Kaua‘i County Council is to a great extent, among DeCosta, Battad and Bulosan.
Between Bulosan and the rest of the pack below is a spread of 2,219 votes. Ed Justus, in tenth, who received 3,428 would have to “make up” 2,219 votes just to reach Bulosan, who is still another 1,693 from DeCosta, making Justus 3,912 votes away from that coveted seventh position.
In eleventh is Wally Nishimura is at 3,280, No. 12 Richard Fukushima at 3,016, No. 13 Shirley Simbre-Medeiros is at 2,788 and Mike Dandurand at No. 14 comes in at 2,557.
To be clear, anything can happen between now and November 3rd. However, it is highly unlikely the top four vote-getters will drop below seventh, and similarly, it is not likely that the bottom five vote-getters will be able to muster the votes to clamber into the seventh slot or higher.
But anything can happen, and life sometimes throws the occasional curveball. There are no shortage of stories where the candidate out front stumbles, while the one in the rear of the pack gets carried forward by favorable winds.
A wise old political pundit once told me that “Elections are games of addition, not subtraction.” In other words, candidates must hold on to the votes/support they already have, while always seeking to add in additional support – without doing things that lose votes.
Voters can be fickle and the underdog can sometimes become the big dog. Candidates who appear arrogant or who make the mistake of taking voters for granted can see their support evaporate. Some of the newer candidates got a very late start and have not yet hit their stride, nor raised or spent the money needed to build their name recognition.
Certain incumbents may have hit a plateau of support and their future votes may grow more slowly than that of a new candidate who has only recently been introduced to voters.
One of the more provocative examples is the Council race of 2008. At the end of that Primary, the now Senate President Ron Kouchi finished in fourth position with 7,155 votes, and Councilmember Lani Kawahara finished in eighth with 5,793. When the general election concluded a few months later, Kawahara finished in fifth with 11,809 votes, and Kouchi ended up out of the running in the eighth slot with 10,370. He, of course, is now President of the Hawai‘i State Senate. The lesson, I suppose is that anything can happen and often it does.
It’s important to remember that every candidate regardless of where they are on the list, will be attempting to “grow their voting base.” In order to “move up,” a candidate must grow their base faster and larger than the others above, and faster than those below who are going to be nipping at your heals. And all of this is occurring during the same time period, between now and November 3.
To all of the candidates, I say give it your all. Enjoy the opportunity to meet and interact with the community, campaign hard and never, ever give up. And of course, don’t screw up.
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.