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2 races done, 2 to go for City Council

By Marcel Honoré

LAST UPDATED: 12:46 p.m. HST, Aug 10, 2014

Two Honolulu City Council candidates -- an incumbent and a political newcomer -- won their seats outright Saturday, while other candidates will march on to runoff elections in November.

Council Chairman Ernie Martin cruised handily to re-election but said that he and his supporters "didn't take this race for granted" and worked to build a grass-roots coalition. In the race for the open 8th District seat, Brandon Elefante easily won a bid to replace his boss, outgoing Councilman Breene Hari-moto.

"We feel very grateful. I'm just thankful for all of my supporters that have helped me in the last eight months," Elefante said Saturday.

Meanwhile, Martin's fellow incumbent, City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, appears to have fallen just shy of an outright re-election bid victory, according to the most recent returns. If that remains the case, she'll face second-place challenger Sam Aiona in a runoff race.

"If we did not reach the 51 percent, it was a very tough campaign. We had an opponent who outspent us 4 to 1," Fukunaga said late Saturday.

The 4th District race to replace Councilman Stanley Chang is also heading for a runoff between former state Rep. Tommy Waters (D, Lani-kai-Wai-ma-nalo) and Trevor Ozawa.

"It's been a sincere honor getting to know the top concerns of the constituents of District IV, where I was born and raised," Ozawa said in an emailed statement Saturday as returns continued to be reported. Waters could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Voters weighed in Saturday on four of Oahu's nine City Council seats. Two incumbents, Chang and Hari-moto, opted to pursue higher office. 

In the 6th District race, Fuku-naga faced a well-funded effort to unseat her by Aikea Unite Here, an independent expenditure -- also known as a super PAC. Aikea raised at least $159,000 as of Aug. 1 to support one of Fuku-naga's challengers, hotel industry worker Joli Toku-sato. Toku-sato's direct campaign, meanwhile, raised less than $9,000 as of July 25.  

The Aikea effort opposing Fuku-naga came after the committee she chairs shelved Bill 16, a measure that would have required hotels and resort owners to seek more approvals and give notification before they could convert any of their units to condominiums. Aikea Unite Here is funded by Unite Here Local 5 PAC Fund and Unite Here TIP State and Local. Unite Here Local 5 represents local hospitality workers.

The latest campaign spending reports show Fuku-naga's campaign raised more than $100,000 through July 25 to battle for her seat.

Eighth District candidate Elefante, an aide in Hari-moto's office, also received significant outside support from Pacific Resource Partnership super PAC Forward Progress -- $84,896 in mailers, and an additional $21,000 for "surveys, polls and voter lists," to assist him.

Elefante will succeed Hari-moto, who opted to run for state Senate rather than seek re-election. He'll represent the Wai-pahu-Aiea-Pearl City district.

The district represents an important transit hub on the island, with crippling traffic and five future rail stops within its borders. Candidates have flagged traffic and homelessness as key issues in the race.

In the 4th District race to replace Chang, Waters' campaign raised more than $106,000 through July 25, the latest state campaign spending records show. Among the other 4th District challengers, Trevor Ozawa's campaign raised more than $90,000, Natalie Iwasa's campaign raised more than $16,000 and Carl Strouble's campaign did not raise any funds, those records show.

In 2008, Waters led the influential House Judiciary Committee, opted not to seek re-election after three terms, citing the birth of his second child as a need to devote more time to his growing family.

Ozawa served on Chang's Council campaign and later served as a legislative aide in his office. 

To a certain extent, Ozawa wants to continue what his former boss started in office.

"We're both young professionals that want to see Hawaii change for the better," Ozawa said in an interview last month. "Our generation is going to be bearing all of the burdens of the decisions that the city makes." 

Martin, the Council chairman, still has a campaign war chest of more than $300,000 that he can use in future races, and he's been rumored to be considering running against Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in 2016. Asked Saturday about whether he's looking to run for mayor, Martin said that Caldwell had supported Martin's opponents in recent years, and that "coming in 2016 I'll be seriously looking to return the favor." 

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