Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Recount possible for close contests

By Gene Park


A recount may be possible in at least one of two nail-biter races for state representative and a City Council seat in Honolulu.

State Rep. Marilyn Lee of District 38 (Mililani, Mililani Mauka) eked out a win against Republican challenger Shaun Kawakami by 17 votes.

For City Council District 2 of North Shore, Ernie Martin pulled ahead of John White by 48 votes.

According to the uncertified final results, Lee, who has been in her seat since 1996, had 5,578, or 50.1 percent of the votes. Kawakami had 5,561, or 49.9 percent of the votes.

Kawakami did not respond to several calls from the Star-Advertiser on Tuesday or yesterday.

Lee said she would assume that her opponent, whom she called a "nice, young man," would call for a recount.

"This morning I received many calls of support, most of them from colleagues who know that I'm probably one of the hardest working legislators down there," she said yesterday. "I've always worked hard, and I will work hard, and I think many of my constituents know that."

Lee, 70, said the voter demographics were favorable to Kawakami, who is 25 and a former youth pastor.

"There's a lot of new people out there," she said.

But she said she tries to stay active physically and in the community, despite what she called the "culture of youth."

Lee is the co-chairwoman of the Women's Legislative Caucus, as well as the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging in Place. She said aging in the community is among the more serious issues Hawaii faces.

"I've been very consistent in my attendance at neighborhood board meetings ... I'm always out there when I send out newsletters," she said. "I'm a youthful, old lady."

Martin, 50, deputy director of Community Services for the city held off White, 35, by a few dozen votes.

If Martin's win holds, it would be counter to City Council races in Districts 4 and 6, where 20-something candidates Stanley Chang and Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, respectively, won.

Chang bested attorney Rich Turbin.

Tamayo, who in 2002 was a state House representative at age 21, beat attorney Sesnita Moepono, an active member of the Liliha/Alewa Neighborhood Board.

Martin said that in his district, being involved in the community was an asset. He said his challenge was starting his campaign in January and catching up to White's campaigning head start.

"My work in the department, it did require me to work a lot with community-based organizations," Martin said. "They already had a pre-existing relationship with me, they could speak to my qualifications, and they could carry that message to voters who didn't know me very well."

White yesterday said he had not decided whether he would call for a recount.

"At this point in time, due to the closeness of the votes, I am keeping my options open," White said in a prepared statement.

Both races flipped leaders as election night wore on. White was ahead after the first batch of results, but fell behind. Kawakami pulled ahead in the second printout, and led Lee until the final uncertified count, released at 6 a.m. yesterday.

The District 2 seat will be vacated by Donovan Dela Cruz, who was elected state senator. Dela Cruz and Martin both agreed to recommend District 2 office employee Reed Matsuura to fill out the two months remaining in Dela Cruz's term, said Council Chairman Todd Apo.

Apo said he will propose Matsuura's appointment on Monday. Matsuura will likely return to work for the District 2 office once Martin is sworn in on Jan. 2.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa's win against U.S. Rep. Charles Djou also will create a vacancy in the state Senate.

Hanabusa must resign before she is sworn into Congress, which won't be until the first week of January. After she resigns, the state Democratic Party has 30 days to present the governor with a list of three nominees to fill her seat.

Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie will be in office next month, and will likely make the appointment.

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