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Incumbent Trevor Ozawa pulls off win over Tommy Waters in City Council rematch

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Former state Rep. Tommy Waters, left, and incumbent City Councilman Trevor Ozawa

Honolulu City Councilman Trevor Ozawa pulled off a 22-vote victory over former state Rep. Tommy Waters to win reelection to the Council District 4 (East Honolulu) seat, according to a final summary report issued by the state Office of Elections at 4:11 a.m. today.

Waters had been ahead by 72 votes after the third printout 9:36 p.m. Tuesday, a tally that stayed the same with the fourth printout at 11:23 p.m. But an estimated 7,000 votes across Oahu, made up mostly of mail-in absentee ballots that were either dropped off physically at precincts or the city clerk’s office, or picked up in late mail pickups, had not been accounted, election officials said.

Ozawa was asleep when the Honolulu Star-Advertiser first texted him the news this morning.

In reaction to the news, Ozawa said: “People aren’t happy with how things are going with the (Caldwell) administration and they want someone in the council who will be a check and balance to the mayor and ensure accountability and transparency at the city.”

Ozawa beat Waters four years ago in similarly shocking fashion, winning by 41 votes in the final printout. Waters unsuccessfully sought a recount in that election.

Photos from Election Night in Hawaii

A Waters victory this year would have shifted the balance of power on the City Council in Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s favor when the new panel convenes in January.

Ozawa, however, has been among the mayor’s staunchest critics and is head of the powerful Council Budget Committee under Council Chairman Ernie Martin, who also often has been at odds with Caldwell.

Ozawa likely now will be part of a razor-thin, five-member leadership team that can be expected to be less supportive of Caldwell initiatives during his final two years as Honolulu Hale’s top dog.

Waters is a Caldwell supporter, and the mayor campaigned for Waters. They have been political allies since the two served in the state House of Representatives in the early 2000s.

In the only other Council race Tuesday night, Councilman Brandon Elefante held a comfortable lead over political newcomer Kelly Kitashima, a hotel executive and 2016 Mrs. Hawaii, for the Council District 8 (Aiea to Waipahu) seat.

Elefante is viewed as more friendly to Caldwell’s policies, while Kitashima has support from the mayor’s staunchest Council critics.

The anti-Caldwell faction is led by Council Chairman Ernie Martin.

Martin is “termed out” and could not seek re-election but is being replaced by Councilwoman- elect Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who won the seat outright in August. Tsuneyoshi is a Martin protege. She is expected to join members Ozawa, Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi and Kymberly Pine in opposition to Caldwell.

Elefante and Council members Ikaika Anderson, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor are Caldwell supporters.

In the four-person election for the East Honolulu Council seat held in August, Ozawa led the pack with 2,637 more votes than second-place finisher Waters.

In August 2014, Waters finished first among a field of four with 2,098 more votes than second-place finisher Ozawa. That November, Ozawa beat Waters in a one-on-one face-off by 41 votes.

Community advocate Natalie Iwasa, who finished third in this August’s runoff, threw her support behind Waters’ candidacy this time and has been critical of Ozawa on several fronts. Golf pro Ricky Marumoto, the fourth-place finisher in the runoff, also endorsed Waters.

Meanwhile, a single City Charter amendment that city leaders had proposed failed resoundingly to win over Oahu voters. The amendment would have defined what makes up a quorum when the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board meets. HART oversees the city’s controversial $8 billion-plus rail project.

The HART board, for the past year, has had difficulty holding votes or taking any other action during meetings because of a struggle to maintain a quorum.

The proposed amendment would make it clear six members are needed to constitute a quorum.

HART Board Chairman Damien Kim said Tuesday night he was disappointed but not surprised in the result. Due to the amendment’s defeat, the HART board will continue to have quorum issues, which could cause delays in votes, delaying the project and adding costs, Kim said.

The problem quorum issue came up last fall when the number of HART board members was increased to 14 from 10 by the state Legislature.

City officials believe it’s unclear whether the four members added by the Legislature are legally on the board because HART and its board were formed under the Honolulu Charter. Assuming the ballot question doesn’t pass, the ambiguity will continue, they said.

The City Council, before placing the question on the ballot, included in the proposal the addition of a fourth, Council-appointed board member. So approval of the amendment would mean the now 10-member HART board (nine of them voting) would have 15 members (nine of them voting).

For full Honolulu Star-Advertiser coverage of the 2018 General Election, go to 808ne.ws/SA2018VOTE.

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