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HOOSER: Unpacking the 2024 Kaua‘i primary

The upcoming primary election ballot for Kaua’i at first glance, looks a little boring.

Not one member of our state legislative delegation has a primary challenger.

U.S. Representative Jill Tokuda is also running unopposed. State Senator Ronald Kouchi is not up for reelection until 2026.

Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami’s term expires in 2026 so he’s not on the ballot. Governor Josh Green is not up for reelection until 2026.

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono is facing two primary challengers, but expected to win without lifting a finger.

There’s no presidential vote until November.

The nonpartisan Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) races do have numerous candidates running for various seats.

Incumbent Dan Ahuna is running for reelection to the Kaua’i seat he has served us well and certainly will have my vote.

Former Congressman Kai Kahele is also a standout candidate running for the Hawai‘i Island OHA seat (elected statewide). Full disclosure: I was a strong supporter of Kahele in his 2022 run for governor and remain a strong supporter in his race for OHA.

And while I’m in the full disclosure mode, I positively love council candidate Fern Holland. I’ve known, worked with and served alongside Fern for many years, and my first and possibly only vote for council will be for Holland.

Which brings me to why it‘s important we show up on Aug. 10.

While the so-called “top-of-the-ticket” is unquestionably boring, the council race is a place our one vote can make a difference.

To be clear, my perspective is based on personally knowing to some extent, every single one of the incumbents and many of the challengers.

But, I’ll do my best to stick with the facts and history of past elections, leaving personalities on the side.

There are 17 candidates running for seven positions. Each voter may cast up to seven votes.

The top 14 vote-getters move through the primary, and then on to the general election.

All seven incumbents are running for reelection and, unless some October surprise happens in July, it’s easy to predict all will be in the top 14.

It’s also a given that former council member Arryl Kaneshiro and Fern Holland, who finished just below Ross Kagawa in 2022, will finish strong in the primary.

Bottom line: The top nine slots are pretty much already locked in and positions six, seven, eight and nine are where most of the movement must and will be.

Incumbent council members Bill De Costa and Kagawa were almost tied for the bottom slot (seven) in 2022, then Kagawa lost it coming in at eight with Holland at nine.

The political reality is or either or both of the two strongest challengers to win, either or both of the two weakest incumbents must lose.

Experienced voters will look at theses dynamics and vote or “plunk” accordingly.

For those not familiar with the term, “plunking“ means not casting all seven council votes, thus inadvertently helping your sixth or seventh choice beat your first and second choices.

Experienced voters will just cast one vote or a small handful perhaps four or five, certainly not all seven.

No disrespect intended for the eight candidates, who ultimately fall into the bottom eight slots.

There’s always the next election, and 2026 will be a most interesting and important one. In 2026, we will elect a new mayor and two incumbent council members will be termed out.

But there’s more.

In 2026 there will be at least two council openings created by term limits plus those openings created by council members (Bernard Carvalho? Mel Rapozo? Kaneshiro?) who decide to run for mayor in 2026.

Translation: In 2026 there will be at least three new council members elected, plus a new mayor, a state Senate seat and all three House seats will be up again. And there will be a governor‘s race.

So please show up on Aug. 10, knowing that the excitement of 2026 is right around the corner.
Source: The Garden Island

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