Trevor Ozawa vs. Tommy Waters: Round 3 of Honolulu City Council fight ends tonight
The heated contest for the Honolulu City Council’s East Honolulu seat — forced into an unprecedented special election by the Hawaii Supreme Court — will draw to a conclusion tonight when the polling site at Honolulu Hale closes at 6 p.m. and the votes are counted a short time later.
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The heated contest for the Honolulu City Council’s East Honolulu seat — forced into an unprecedented special election by the Hawaii Supreme Court — will draw to a conclusion tonight when the polling site at Honolulu Hale closes at
6 p.m. and the votes are counted a short time later.
If the outcome is anything like what happened the previous two times Trevor Ozawa and Tommy Waters faced each other for the District 4 seat, the results may be extremely close.
In November 2014 first-time candidate Ozawa beat former state House member Waters by a scant 41 votes, with 4,455 ballots left blank. In November Waters was ahead on early printouts only to see Ozawa pull ahead by 22 votes in the final tally.
Waters, and separately a group of 39 East Honolulu voters, challenged the vote count. The Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the election after determining the Office of the City Clerk violated state law when it picked up mail-in ballots after 6 p.m.
With the general election results thrown into turmoil, Ozawa was not allowed to sit on the Council in January as expected. The eight remaining members in February voted to name former city Transportation Services Director Mike Formby as the district’s interim Council member pending the special election.
A staggering 32,760 votes had been cast as of 4 p.m. Friday — 32,274 mail-in ballots and 486 in-person votes cast. That’s nearly 52 percent of the 63,392 ballots sent out to eligible voters in the district, which runs from Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana.
In the November general election, 39,613 votes were tabulated, including 2,909 blank votes and 10 “overvotes.” In November 2014, 37,718 votes were counted, including blank votes and overvotes.
The 32,760 votes cast so far in Ozawa-Waters III also far outpace the tallies in the four other special elections held to replace Council members since the current procedure was put in place in the early 2000s.
After Todd Apo resigned in 2010, a mere 12,610 votes were cast by constituents of Council District 1. That’s a turnout of 23.4 percent. Tom Berg won that West Oahu seat over 13 other candidates, with 2,326 votes.
The city Elections Division expects vote counting to be finished sometime between 7 and 10 p.m., followed by a one-time printout to be issued online at honolulu.gov/elections.
District voters may continue to walk into Honolulu Hale and vote in person from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. today. Adult U.S. citizens living in the district who aren’t yet registered to vote can sign up to do so at Honolulu Hale before closing today, provided they can prove their identity and that they reside in the district.
The Supreme Court’s
decision to invalidate the November vote surprised many, especially since the court rejected Waters’ 2014 appeal of the close vote in that race.
Whoever wins likely will determine leadership among the nine-member Council and how receptive that leadership team will be to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s initiatives. Ozawa was part of a five-member faction more hostile to Caldwell’s platform.
With few substantive
issues separating them, Ozawa and Waters went after each other during the special election campaign. Ozawa’s campaign materials called Waters “a lapdog” of Caldwell, a longtime political ally, and brochures from the Waters camp suggested he has a better temperament than the sometimes fiery Ozawa.
Each candidate also claimed to have more integrity than the other.
As of March 31 Waters’ campaign had spent $230,365 while Ozawa had spent $191,588, according to reports filed Wednesday with the state Campaign Spending Commission.
Those totals do not include $163,000 spent by two union-backed political action committees to support
Waters and oppose Ozawa.
During the 2018 election cycle, Ozawa reported spending $530,542 through Nov. 6 while Waters reported spending $205,168 during the same period.
Honolulu Council members make $66,576 annually.
Whoever wins tonight will need to wait at least several weeks to be sworn into office, as state law allows a
20-day challenge period.