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Caldwell beats Djou to win reelection as Honolulu’s mayor

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    Kirk Caldwell gave a shaka to his supporters tonight at the former Sports Authority location at Ward Centers.


    Kirk Caldwell spoke to the crowd tonight at the former Sports Authority location at Ward Center.


    Kirk Caldwell supporters react to the first printout showing their candidate ahead.


    Kirk Caldwell supporters gathered at the mayor’s party headquarters tonight at the former Sports Authority location on Ward Avenue.


    Kirk Caldwell and Charles Djou

Incumbent Kirk Caldwell defeated former U.S. Rep. and City Councilman Charles Djou in the battle for Honolulu mayor Tuesday night.

With nearly all the ballots counted before midnight, Caldwell had 138,142 votes, or 52.3 percent, to Djou’s 125,945, or 47.7 percent.

Djou conceded shortly after 10 p.m., telling supporters at the Pearl Country Club clubhouse in Aiea, “I’m very sorry that tonight I fell short. We gave it our all.”

His apology was met with supportive cries from the crowd.

“Our community, our city our Hawaii deserves an honest, accountable, responsible government,” he said. “I still believe that there will be a time where we’re able to hold our elected officials accountable on promises they make to the people. I still believe there will be a time that we have a competitive two party democracy on our islands here in Hawaii and I believe there will be a time where it is not money but heart that determines the outcome of elections. I’m saddened that that time is not today.”

Caldwell, at his campaign party at the former Ward Center Sports Authority site, came on stage to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” to after Djou’s concession.

“We took our message all over this island into every single neighborhood,” the mayor said. “And we talked about what we were doing over the last four years, and I think this island heard what we’re doing, and they want to give us another four years to even do more.

“For me, it is about infrastructure. But it’s not about the stuff that’s underground, on the ground and above the ground. It’s about the people who live on this island — how do we help them to thrive.”

Caldwell said completing the rail line will be his biggest priority.

“No. 1 we’re going to work really hard to complete rail all the way to Ala Moana — 20 miles, 21 stations,” he said. “It’s not about the construction. It’s about giving people a choice to get out of cars and travel quickly. It’s about transportation equality, social justice, to help those who work in town to get back and forth from home and get out of gridlock, just not for today but for 100 years from now. That is a legacy all of us are working on to complete.”

In the primary, Caldwell finished ahead of Djou by 1,530 votes in a field of 11 candidates, leading to the general election head-to-head contest.

John Strandberg, a disappointed Djou supporter from Manoa, said of his candidate Tuesday night, “He’s an outsider and that’s what we needed. The people of Honolulu aren’t ready for change. It goes back to the same routine.”

The early part of the campaign was dominated by debate over the escalating costs of what is now projected to be an $8 billion rail project from East Kapolei to Ala Moana with Djou suggesting the city should consider alternatives to building the entire 20-mile line. 

But since the Aug. 13 primary, Djou acknowledged that federal transit officials left the city no choice but to go to Ala Moana, leaving how to fund the project’s last leg the only difference between him and Caldwell on the issue. Caldwell favors extending the existing, Oahu-only 0.5 percent surcharge on the general excise tax beyond 2027. Djou said he opposes that idea.

Djou has also questioned Caldwell’s leadership and ethics, criticizing the mayor for not doing more to deal with ongoing conflict in several agencies, most notably turmoil in the Honolulu Police Department, and his role in what appeared to be an over-exertion of authority over the city Ethics Commission.

While all city races are nonpartisan, Hawaii is a predominantly Democratic state and card-carrying Democrat Caldwell is boasting the support of current Gov. David Ige and former Democratic governors Neil Abercrombie, John Waihee and George Ariyoshi, President Barack Obama, as well as five Council Councilmembers. Djou has countered that his supporters include former Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano, three Democratic Councilmembers including Chairman Ernie Martin and former Democratic Party Chairman Walter Heen.

Caldwell has outspent Djou 3-to-1 since the primary, spending $947,549 to Djou’s $339,628.

The waning weeks of the race saw an upswing in negative campaigning, much of it by third-party independent expenditures or super PACS, which can spend an unlimited amount of money in support or opposition to a candidate so long as there is no coordination with any of them.

The union-backed Workers for a Better Hawaii has spent more than $750,000 through Oct. 31 on radio and TV ads that touted Caldwell’s support of seniors, women and other targeted groups as well as messages ripping Djou for voting with congressional and state legislative Republicans. The group is funded largely by the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters.

The latter was the main contributor to the Pacific Resource Partnership PAC, which spent $3.6 million on advertising aimed at persuading voters to reject Cayetano’s anti-rail mayoral campaign. Cayetano subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit against the super PAC, which was settled when PRP agreed to issue a public apology and donate $125,000 to two charities.

The newly formed Save Our City LLC, meanwhile, is expected to spend a minimum of $300,000 on its Anybody But Caldwell ads that portray Caldwell as greedy, pointing out that he has been paid $200,000 annually in recent years to be on Territorial Savings Bank’s board of directors.

Save Our City received $170,000 of its funding from Dennis Mitsunaga, president of local architectural, engineering and construction management firm Mitsunaga & Associates. An additional $36,490 came from 11 Mitsunaga officials and employees. Cayetano contributed $5,000.

In the Aug. 13 primary, in what was considered to be a three-way fight between Caldwell, Djou and former Mayor Peter Carlisle, Caldwell beat Djou by 1,530 votes. Caldwell grabbed 74,062 votes, 44.6 percent of the votes cast, while Djou received 72,532 votes, or 43.7 percent.

Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro appeared to be heading for a second, four-year term, handily beating little-known opponent Anosh Yaqoob.

All three incumbent Councilmembers facing general election contests were well on their way to winning re-election.

In Council District 5 (Kaimuki to Kakaako), Ann Kobayashi was besting opponent Kimberly Case; in District 7 (Kalihi to Foster Village), Joey Manahan was beating Chace Shigemasa; and in District 9 (Mililani Town to Ewa Beach), Ron Menor was running far ahead of Emil Svrcina.

Two others won re-election during the Aug. 13 primary.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine won re-election to her District 1 seat (Waianae to Ewa Beach) after she received more than 50 percent of the votes cast. She beat out Kioni Dudley, Tom Berg and Marc E. Anthony.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who represents District 3 (Ahuimanu to Waimanalo), ran unopposed and won re-election by virtue of receiving one vote.


Star-Advertiser staff writers Kathryn Mykleseth and Nanea Kalani contributed to this report.

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  • Looks like Oahu voters are stoopid enough to re-elect the man responaible for 6 years behind schedule and about 6 billion over the original budget with no accountability.

    Bend over Oahu, you’re going to get what you asked for.

    • It’s not like KROOKWELL won a resounding victory.

      That means there are a LOT of dissatisfied voters out there. Like what put Trump into the victory circle.

      KROOKWELL had better not screw the pooch

    • Well I thing a whole lot of blame needs to be thrown at Dennis Mitsunaga of Mitsunaga and Associates. This whacko spamed the entire Hawaii Democratic database with a poorly written letter in a childish attempt to support Djou.

    • Couldn’t have said it better. I am amazed that nationally, people are so sick of both the republicans and democrats that they elected a womanizing, condescending, egotistical bigot, and yet we keep putting the same clowns back in here. Now, we all have nothing to complain about when the state goes bankrupt because of who we put in office 4 years ago, and in spite of his ineptness, we put right back in. We made our bed, now we will have to sleep in it.

        • The democrats have also put Hawaii in the sorry state we are in now. Poor infrastructure, high taxes and a welfare mentality.

        • You might ask why its so unbearably expensive to live here relative to low wages, if the Demos have done such a great job. You might ask why every government project is full of cost over runs and graft. You might, but you probably won’t.

      • Bottom line, nearly every city worker has a spouse, a child who is at least 18 years old, a mother, a father, an aunt, an uncle and a best friend who has committed to vote for Caldwell. This is why incumbents are hard to oust in Hawai‘i. The ’ohana system guarantees it.

      • Voters across the nation voted for change. But not here in Hawaii, the most politically one sided, corrupt state in the union. Nothing will change until it must, it’s but a matter of time before the public worker unions and their puppet (D) politicians bankrupt the state. 16 billion in unfunded public worker pension obligations currently and growing every day.

    • Djou probably would have just spun his wheels in office anyway voting no on everything instead of trying to get stuff actually passed. Djou should just fade away since his style of mainland politics in Hawaii is like pounding a square peg into a round hole.

      • The real sad story is despite one party control for decades, essentially none of the State and cities great problems ever get solved. Rail fiasco, high taxes, Education, Traffic, homelessness, affordability, doctor shortages etc along with below average performance of all our city and state agencies still happens. Voter turnout is the poor in part due to lack of choices. Hawaii is becoming more and more third world and bucking trends of the rest of the nation.

        • Baloney. We never lack for efforts to help people.

          The difference is that we have aloha for everyone here. We don’t have the deep racial devisions of the mainland and that’s good.

          We don’t want to import mainland ills to Hawaii. Keep da buggahs out.

    • What you and all the others that are turning a blind eye to the facts, is that Caldwell has refused to take responsibility for the fiasco called rail, and as such has failed as the leader of our county. Hope you are all ready to get taxed to death. Excise tax, property tax, vehicle registration will all be going up to make up for the catastrophic overruns that are inevitable.

      • No, they will be raising our taxes to pay for those charter amendments like the one for the zoo. Where do you think the money will come from? Yes, our rp taxes. And the other amendments just adds more bureaucracy. They gotta get the money from somewhere. I said it before that the half percent rail tax will be going on for more years if not forever, much of it because they need to keep the cost to ride the rail down and with operational expenses the rail will never break even so we need to keep paying to keep it operational.

        • You can bet your life, when they figure out no one is riding it, they are going to start penalizing car owners. Outrageous registration fee for the second vehicle with the same address, even higher fuel tax, are just a couple that will most likely be looked at.

  • When we wake up tomorrow……….how can we come together and continue to make America great………hold on your wallet…….it’s going to get bumpy….

  • Insane Hawaii voters!!! Putting the same corrupt and ineffective politicians back in office to serve their union puppet masters at our expense. How could you put Hanabusa back in office and hope that Schatz, Hirono, and Hanabusa will do something of meaning for us???
    Caldwell still has no plan on how to finance rail, negotiate all of the hurdles to go from Middle Street to Ala Moana, how to power the whole system, and how to pay for the operation and maintenance . Also, have not solved the problem of where all these supposed riders (in 6 years) will end up parking to ride the train from nowhere to nowhere near UH.

  • It is becoming commonplace for Hawaii voters to vote without knowing what they are voting for. I think maybe Hawaii people just vote Democrat because their parents or grandparents voted Democrat. Wise up people and find out what is going on here or just don’t vote at all because you are just ruining the entire election process.

    • No, the problem is that the republicans are so inept that they can’t field competent candidates. They have too many has been and never was candidates like Chucky Djon’t and Duke Aiona that it was a shoo in for the democrats.

      • Obviously you’ve never met or spent any time with Sam Slom, otherwise you’d know that your attitude is ridiculous. And speaking nationally, it was your party that nominated the only possible candidate that Trump could beat.

        • This has to go down in history as one of the biggest slaps in the face. Anyone on earth should have beaten Trump, and yet Hillary with all her connections, all her experience, potentially the first women president, complete backing from the NDC from the day she conceded to Obama, still wasn’t enough.

        • What an idi0tic comment @hawaiikone! Too much time in confined space of elevators. Do you realize how you just put down the Republican Party? Because, maybe you forgot, but Trump first beat EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE! Lol…

    • Looks like you don’t know anything about the vote. Neither Caldwell or Djou had a party next to their names on the ballot. Voters voted for who they thought would be the best mayor based on the candidate’s name & policies, not their party.

  • The problem is that too many people don’t vote and we have our status quo.
    More taxes, more homeless, more keiki leaving for greener pastures.We continue to live in a place place run by developers and unions through crooked power mad politicians.

  • Charles Djou is a good man. He had nothing to apologize. We should thank all of the candidates for their willingness to throw their hat in the ring and serve.

  • Well folks lets see how much money you have to shell out of your pocket to pay for rail, maintenance, and other high cost projects the mayor is proposing. I bet your property taxes will sky rocket within two years to balance his project.

  • This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Djou wanted to finish the rail to ala moana so he was no different than Caldwell. Before that he had the backing of the anti rail people like slater and cayetano. We didn’t hear much from them after Djou pledged his support to finish the rail and not kill it.

    • Djou probably was convinced with heavy local union campaign finance money to say he would continue the rail all the way to Ala Moana center. Agree that was the beginning of the end for Djou.

  • Very great day for the aina. Let’s come together and work as a community to support Mayor Caldwell. As for Djou, good bye! He was a sore loser on his concession speech if you can even call it that.

  • OK you CALDWELL VOTERS; don’t complain as YOUR WATER/SEWER & PROPERTY TAXES keep going up and up. Of course, if you’re on welfare or homeless, you might like Caldwell ’cause you don’t pay any taxes anyway.

  • News is full of DRAMA! That’s how they sell Papers!

    The Rail Project: Oahu-only 0.5 percent surcharge on the general excise tax beyond 2027. WRONG! It’s half of ONE PERCENT!!!! Wrong News reporting!!!

    Example: Those who have GE Licenses are the ONLY ones who pay this!!! “very few”!! If you gross $10,000 dollars you would only pay $50 dollars!!! that’s what (half of ONE PERCENT IS)!!!!!

    Such a small price for such a HUGE BENNEFIT!!!! Common People Wake UP!!! Don’t blow this GREAT OPPERTUNITY!!!!

    READ into what we are getting!!!! Don’t only listen to the TV, RADIO and Paper!

    You are all being trapped by the idea of DRAMA sells!!! And that’s the News media that’s how they make money!

    Wake up!!!!!!!

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