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HOOSER: 2022 elections: Some speculation, some facts

The 2022 Kaua‘i election lineup is slowly starting to take shape. As of 04/15, 10 residents have formally expressed interest in running for the seven-member County Council. In 2020 there were 21 candidates on the primary ballot, with the top 14 going on to the general election.

The actual filing deadline is June 7 so there’s still plenty of time for new candidates to step forward, as this nonpartisan race will ultimately be decided in the November general election.

Due to term limits capping councilmembers to four consecutive two-year terms, current Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and Vice Chair Mason Chock are “terming out” and thus unable to run for reelection.

In theory this term-limit provision creates two “openings” on the council and an opportunity for new candidates, new voices and new ideas.

I say “in theory” because both former Council Chair Melvin Rapozo and former Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa have signaled their intentions to run once again for the council.

There are seven seats on the Kaua‘i County Council, and all are up for election. In theory (there’s that phrase again) every single seat is “open.” But in reality, incumbents and former incumbents have a significant advantage.

Councilmember Felicia Cowden has filed her papers, and KipuKai Kuali‘i has pulled his. The three remaining council incumbents, Luke Evslin, Billy DeCosta and Bernard Carvalho, will also likely run for reelection.

So it may be deja vu all over again. Or not.

While at first glance we seem to get to seven pretty quickly, me thinks things are a bit more nuanced than simply same ole same ole wins again.

After analyzing past elections the question for the Council race seems to boil down to who is fighting for the bottom. CM Evslin who has consistently finished at the top of the list, and CM former Mayor Carvalho are both solid. Former Council Chair Rapozo whose name has remained in the spotlight via the popular “Mel and Charlie Show” streamed live regularly on social media also seems to be set.

A review of the 2020 general election final results have DeCosta at No. 5, Cowden at No. 6 and Kuali‘i coming in at No. 7 — all clustered within a 600-vote margin of each other.

First-time candidate Addison Bulosan came in No. 8 in 2020, which clearly makes him the most likely of the existing challengers to “move up” into a winning slot. A drive around the island shows he is once again running a strong campaign with signs and banners going up island-wide.

The bookmakers in Vegas would for sure say that, at this point in time, the 2022 battle for the bottom four slots will be between Cowden, DeCosta, Kuali‘i, Bulosan and Kagawa.

But, of course, anything can happen, more candidates are sure to jump in, and ghosts from Christmas past could very well emerge.

The recent bribery charges against two sitting state legislators (Maui and O‘ahu), plus the fact that a former Kaua‘i county councilmember is facing 15 years in prison on charges that he led a methamphetamine ring, are sure to raise questions among voters as to who knew what and when.

It’s also possible, and if you are listening to the political rumor mill, highly likely that there may be movement, perhaps a retirement, at the state legislative level. If this occurs, it would likely motivate an incumbent councilmember to attempt to “move up.”

Personally, I’d like to see us move forward, not backward. My hope is that candidates reflecting a broader diversity of viewpoints, new ideas, new energy and new voices will soon step up to throw their hats in the ring. To say the “good ole boys” are over-represented at the moment would be an understatement.

The above is speculation. Below are just the facts.

Enjoy!

Per the Office of Elections, the following have either “pulled papers” or actually filed to be a council candidate. List is updated every Friday at https://olvr.hawaii.gov/Controls/CandidateFiling.aspx?elid=87.

Filed: Felicia Cowden, Nelson Mukai, Mel Rapozo, Clint Yago Sr.

Pulled but not filed: Addison Bulosan, Rosemarie Jauch, Ross Kagawa, KipuKai Kuali’i, James Robert Lanstad, Jeffrey Linder.

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Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years 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 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.
Source: The Garden Island

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