(20)24 at the local level

Politics Hawaii with Stan Fichtman now takes a look at the various mayoral and county council races across the state, to see who has pulled papers (or filed) for various offices.

And, at least in one race, an observation of a name that hasn’t appeared, probably won’t appear but would be interesting if they did run for office. Read on!

Seal of the County of Hawaii (Big Island)
Hawaii County HI Seal” by Government of the County of Hawaii is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Mayor – Hawaii County

Currently, 9 candidates have expressed interest in running for Hawaii County Mayor, with three of them formally filing for office. Of the nine, one is the incumbent, Mitch Roth, who pulled papers on March 15, and the news reported that he did have a kick-off ceremony for his campaign.

One candidate who did file for the ballot is former Republican Lt. Governor Candidate Seaula Tupai, Jr. A keen watcher of politics in Hawaii will remember that Tupai was on the ballot with Duke Aiona in the 2022 Gubernatorial election. Whether he is just running to keep his name in circulation for the future, or this is the new plan to run hard and potentially beat Roth, remains to be seen.

As the deadline for filing approaches, there was some talk about Kai Kahele potentially returning to politics by running for Hawaii County Mayor. Political observers may recall that he previously ran for Governor in the Democratic primary, relinquishing his Congressional seat in the process and ultimately losing to Josh Green. Some may remember that he did not handle the defeat with grace. However, it remains to be seen if he will indeed file for candidacy, as the deadline is June 4th.

Rick Blangiardi, incumbent for Mayor of Honolulu
PC:”2022-1026-smithsonian-apac-rick-blangiardi” by Fuzheado is marked with CC0 1.0.

Mayor – Honolulu

The signs are going up all over the island, declaring that the incumbent, Rick Blangiardi, is running to keep the Mayor’s office for four more years.

And he is the only one of the 10 candidates that pulled papers and, upon the deadline passing and him not changing his mind, his name will be on the ballot in August. Of the 9 other candidates that have pulled papers, none of them has the name recognition for Blangiardi. A couple of them on the list, like David Asing and Karl Dicks – they have been on the ballot before, but not successful in their runs.

So the question comes “Is the Honolulu Mayor’s race Blangiardi’s to lose?”, as this pundit has heard in various circles. The answer is that it will remain to be seen. There can always be the last-minute candidate with big-name recognition and money on the barrelhead to make a real run. Cited here: Ed Case when he ran for Congress in 2018 as a late entry and beat out a who’s who of politicians who wanted to level up.

Now onto the Council races

Hawaii County, Hawaii
PC”Hawaii County in Hawaii” by Mikey641 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Hawaii County Council

Every council district in Hawaii County has elicited some candidates for each office. Most who are on the list, so far, have just pulled papers but not formally filed. The only seat that is “open” is District 3, which has elicited interest from six individuals.

Two of the names from the six leaped out as notable people in the community. The first is Dennis Onishi, former Councilmember for the district from 2008-2016. He then ran for State Senate against Kai Kahele and lost. Since then, he has served at times as the Governor’s Representative on the Big Island, and now he may be looking to get back his prior job – he has both pulled papers and filed.

Another name is Kelton Chang. He might not be a familiar name in Hawaii politics, but he does have a lot of pull in the Hilo community. For years he ran the Hilo Jaycees Hawaii County Fair every September at the Hilo Fairgrounds. As Branch Manager for Ace Auto Glass in Hilo, he is known by many in the community. He too has also pulled papers and filed for office.

And Chang is sign-waving, with several supporters.

Maui County encompasses the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe
PC: “Maui County in Hawaii” by Mikey641 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Maui Council

The current set of 9 Councilmembers for Maui Council have all pulled papers expressing interest at least in keeping their positions for another term. While this humble blogger does not have a strong sense of any of the candidates, the ongoing situations on Maui may dictate what happens in that race. As mentioned to this blogger a few days ago by another pundit, many passionate emotions are expressed in the Maui Council these days on the issues stemming from the Lahaina wildfires last year.

The question emerges whether the people of Maui will continue to work with the current set of Councilmembers or will another hui (group) of candidates team up to take out the incumbents due to the current issues, and whether the Council is adequately addressing them.

The City and County of Honolulu is the entire island of Oahu.
PC: “Honolulu County in Hawaii” by Mikey641 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Honolulu City Council

The Honolulu City Council elects its members in a staggard format. So for this election cycle (2024) Councilmembers from the odd districts, 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 seats are up for election. The next election cycle (2026) will see seats in districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 up.

With that, as of the 4-26-2024 report from the Office of Elections, not all districts have candidates listed in either pulling papers or formally filing. The notable district that is missing a name right now is District 9 – currently held by Councilmember Augusto “Augie” Tulba. But this blogger and most political analysts in Hawaii expect Tulba to seek a second term in the Council.

Going over to District 5, currently held by former Legislator and current Councilmember Calvin Say, the seat is now seen as “open”, with Say potentially not running for re-election. That seat has already elicited interest from veteran State House of Representatives member Scott Nishimoto (District 20). He is joined in the race by another House member Dale Kobayashi, the son of former Councilmember Ann Kobayashi. Three others, along with Kobayashi and Nishimoto, have only pulled papers, but none have formally filed yet.

Incumbents Andrea Tupola (D1), Esther Kiaaina (D3), and Radiant Cordero (D7) have all pulled papers, with Tupola the only one formally filing to run. This will be a set of races that the savvy Hawaii political observer should continue to watch as, no doubt, more names will be added before the deadline.

Kauai County, Hawaii
PC: “Kauai County in Hawaii” by Mikey641 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Kauai Council

Of the seven Kauai Councilmembers currently serving six of them have pulled papers, and of those six, two have formally filed to run for office. The only one that has not yet either pulled or filed that is in the Council now is Ross Kagawa.

As said, though for the Honolulu City Council seats, no doubt more names will be added before the deadline.

Of the 13 names on the list so far, three of them are notable. Mel Rapozo who is the current chair and has been a community leader in Kauai for several years; former Mayor Bernard Carvalho who ran for Lt. Governor in the past, but is still involved in politics; and Fern Holland, a community leader who was recently on the news talking about the issue of flooding at the Coco Palms redevelopment, a front-burner issue in Kauai for many years.

She also ran for Council in 2022.

The deadline for filing the candidate applications is June 4, 2024. It is expected between now and then. The primary election is scheduled for Saturday, August 10.

It is worth noting that Hawaii is a mail-in state, which means that ballots will be sent out by the Office of Elections starting from Tuesday, July 23. This gives voters time to complete and submit their ballots before the election day.