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Maui Mayor Arakawa surges to take the lead in re-election bid

He will face a county lifeguard and leader of a nonprofit group in the general election

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 10:27 a.m. HST, Aug 10, 2014

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa cruised to the top spot on the mayoral ballot in Saturday's primary election, winning 64 percent of the vote.

The top two vote-getters in the nonpartisan race advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Arakawa, 62, will face county lifeguard Tamara Paltin, 36, who heads the nonprofit Save Honolua Coalition. She collected 3,199 votes, or 12 percent of the vote, compared with Arakawa's 17,093 votes.

Still, Arakawa told supporters Saturday night, "We're going to have to push like crazy until November."

Maui voters who supported Arakawa at the polls Saturday said he stood out for his experience in office. He previously served as mayor from 2002 to 2006, and voters returned him to the post in 2010.

"I looked at the other candidates, and he was the best choice as far as I could see," said Wai?kapu resident Eric Correa, a police officer, after voting.

Waikapu voter Cathy Ikeuchi said she likes that the mayor is frequently seen out in the community.

"It's nice that he's not just one of those stay-in-the-office kind," she said.

Arakawa, however, has seen his popularity sag in some circles after failing to come out against GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops being grown in the county.

Businesswoman Alana Kay came in a distant third in the mayoral contest, with about 5 percent of votes (1,314), followed by Nelson Waikiki Jr., who collected 2.9 percent (774) despite the fact he is being held at the Maui Community Correctional Center after his arrest last month for allegedly violating conditions of his release in a criminal case.

Orion Kopelman and Beau Hawkes got 2.5 percent and 1.4 percent of the votes, respectively.

In the nonpartisan Maui County Council races, the top two vote-getters for each seat advance to the general election.

In one of the more hotly contested races, former Councilman Mike Molina got 40.5 percent of votes (10,862) for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia seat over the incumbent Mike White, who got 35.7 percent (9,562).

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