Political newcomer Heidi Tsuneyoshi and veteran politician Carol Fukunaga clinched victories in their respective Honolulu City Council races, while Councilman Trevor Ozawa will need to go head-to-head against former state Rep. Tommy Waters in November to win re-election.
Tsuneyoshi, senior adviser to outgoing Councilman Ernie Martin, was winning with 54.7 percent of the votes cast over former state Sen. Robert “Bobby” Bunda’s 29.5 percent.
Her decisive victory is viewed as an upset because City Hall pundits expected her to be in a tight race with Bunda.
Bunda was pitting his 28 years in the state Legislature, including six years as Senate president, against the novice Tsuneyoshi, who is well known in the district as a key community liaison for Martin.
District 2 runs from Mililani Mauka to Kahaluu and generally is regarded as the most far-flung of the nine Honolulu Council districts. Both Tsuneyoshi and Bunda are Wahiawa residents while Realtor Choon James and farmer Dave Burlew, who finished third and fourth, respectively, are North Shore denizens.
The contest was marred by a series of anonymous mailers that questioned Bunda’s integrity and character. The mailers urged voters to support Burlew, who vehemently denied playing any role in the negative campaigning. Tsuneyoshi and James also denied any involvement.
Bunda, in response, sent out his own flyer asking voters to question who would benefit most from — and would have the resources to mount — the anonymous campaign.
Voters who entered polling booths at Leilehua High School Saturday said they were unhappy with the anonymous attack ads.
Maxine Wheeler, a retired schoolteacher, declined to say for whom she voted. While the anonymous ad irked her, Wheeler acknowledged that what she read “made me think twice” about the options before her for the District 2 seat. She said she hoped the race would advance to the general election so that she could find out more about the candidates.
Larry Angel, who voted for Tsuneyoshi, said the negative campaigning turned him off and didn’t have an impact on how he voted.
“I hate that kind of negative stuff,” he said. “It was more like a personal attack on the person.”
Tsuneyoshi and Bunda both ran television commercials and each spent more than $100,000 on the contest.
Under the Honolulu City Charter, the top two vote-getters in the primary election advance to a one-on-one contest in the general election. The exception is when the first-place finisher gets more than 50 percent of the votes cast, in which case the person with the most votes wins outright and avoids a November runoff.
In Council District 6 (Makiki to Kalihi), Fukunaga won an easier-than-expected victory over community advocate and magazine publisher Ikaika Hussey and union official Tyler Dos Santos-Tam.
The super PAC Be Change Now, which is sponsored by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, spent significant money opposing Fukunaga and supporting Dos Santos-Tam, the executive director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance. The carpenters’ union is one of the financiers of the Hawaii Construction Alliance.
After the super PAC sent out attack ads against her, Fukunaga accused the union and the alliance of trying to “buy” a seat at City Hall.
Hussey, whose wife is Sierra Club of Hawaii Executive Director Marti Townsend, won endorsements from progressive organizations including the Oahu chapter of Our Revolution, the organization started by Bernie Sanders.
In District 4 (Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana), Ozawa received 46 percent of the votes cast and was unable to win outright. He will now head to a November runoff against Waters, who captured 36 percent.
The head-to-head contest will be a rematch of the general election battle the two men waged in 2014, which Ozawa won by only 41 votes.
As in 2014, CPA and community advocate Natalie Iwasa finished third Saturday.
When there are two candidates for a Council race, the candidates face off in a single election in November under the City Charter. As a result, the District 8 (Lower Aiea to Waipahu) contest did not appear on the primary election ballot. Incumbent Councilman Brandon Elefante and challenger Kelly Kitashima, a hotel executive and former Mrs. Hawaii, will face each other Nov. 6.