Two former Hawaii legislators appeared to lock up Honolulu City Council seats Saturday, while three other seats in play are almost certainly headed for Nov. 3 general election runoffs.
Andria Tupola and Calvin Say captured more than half the ballots in their races based on a near-full count of votes — enough to avoid a general election runoff.
Two rounds of vote tallies through 10 p.m. included more than 90% of the expected statewide total vote. So major changes in final results expected Sunday morning are unlikely.
Three other contests for City Council seats were closer, and should result in the top two picks for these races competing against each other in the general election.
These head-to-head matchups are likely to feature Esther Kiaaina against Greg Thielen in Windward Oahu; Radiant Cordero against Jacob Aki in Kalihi; and Will Espero against comedian Augusto “Augie T” Tulba in Central and Leeward Oahu.
Each City Council race can be claimed outright in the primary if one candidate receives more than half of all votes cast. If that threshold is not met, then the top two finishers move on to the general election.
All together, 20 candidates competed for five nonpartisan seats on the Council, which makes policy decisions for the city government, sometimes at odds with the mayor of Honolulu.
Because five of the Council’s nine seats are up for election, it is assured the organization will have a new majority of first-time members.
The five seats need to be filled because their current holders have held their positions for eight years straight, hitting term limits.
Ikaika Anderson, Ann Kobayashi, Joey Manahan, Ron Menor and Kym Pine are all finishing up a maximum two consecutive four-year terms.
The newly elected Council members will have four-year terms and join continuing members Heidi Tsuneyoshi, Tommy Waters, Carol Fukunaga and Brandon Elefante.
In Anderson’s district covering Waimanalo to Kaneohe, Kiaaina was leading with 32% of the vote in a six-person race. She is executive director of the Pacific Basin Development Council and a former assistant secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama. She also has held positions in Congress and state government, and ran unsuccessfully for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District seat in 2012.
Thielen was close with 28% of the Saturday vote tally. He is a home builder and small-business owner as well as the son of state Rep. Cynthia Thielen and brother of state Sen. Laura Thielen.
Like Kiaaina and Thielen, the others vying for Anderson’s seat also have never held elected office.
Alan Kekoa Texeira, Anderson’s deputy chief of staff, was in third with about 20% of the Saturday vote tally.
Three other contenders — Grant “Kalani” Kalima, Warland Kealoha and Paul Mossman — trailed significantly.
For Kobayashi’s seat covering Kaimuki to Ala Moana, two contenders were handily outdone by Say, who is a former House speaker and collected 51% of the early vote. Dave Watase received 41% of the early vote and Philmund Lee was much further behind.
Say, a small-business owner who spent 46 years in the Legislature and served as House speaker for 14 years, was not willing to declare victory tonight because the vote count was too close to the halfway mark to assume there won’t be a runoff in November.
“I’m a little tentative,” he said. “I feel very fortunate that I do have the number of votes now.”
In Manahan’s district from Kalihi to Foster Village, Cordero, Manahan’s chief of staff, was leading with 48% of the early vote ahead of two other contestants. Aki, chief of staff to state Sen. Kalani English of Maui, wasn’t far behind with 42% of the vote. Ryan Mandado trailed significantly.
Menor’s district covering Mililani to Ewa Beach had the tightest race going among three contenders with Espero, a former state senator, in the lead with 40% of the vote followed by Tulba, a comedian and businessman, with 36%. Earl Tsuneyoshi trailed with 24%.
In Pine’s district covering Ewa to the Waianae Coast, Tupola dominated with 59% of the vote in a race with five contenders.
Tupola was a state representative from 2014 to 2018 and won the Republican Party nomination for governor in 2018. She collected 131,719 votes in that race and lost to incumbent Democratic Gov. David Ige.
Tupola said she was excited when the initial voting results were announced, which was shortly after her campaign announced that it was her goal to win outright in the primary.
“Things are awesome,” she said.
The next closest vote-getters for Pine’s seat based on early results were Anthony “Makana” Paris and Kathy Davenport, each with about 16% of the vote. Naomi Hanohano and Galen Kerfoot were far behind.