Oahu voters who cast ballots propelled three Honolulu City Council candidates, Augusto “Augie T” Tulba, Esther Kia‘aina and Radiant Cordero, into the lead for terms starting in January.
The trio will join a pair of former state lawmakers, Andria Tupola and Calvin Say, who won seats in the August primary election, to give the nine-member Council a majority of newcomers.
All five are slated to serve four-year terms on the Council, which makes policy decisions for a city government that in January will be led by new Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
In the closest Council election result, Tulba, a comedian, had 21,240 votes, just 1,558 ahead of former state lawmaker Will Espero for a seat replacing Ron Menor in the district representing residents from parts of Ewa Beach to Mililani.
For the district covering Waimanalo to Kaneohe to fill a seat recently vacated by Ikaika Anderson, Kia‘aina, a former state and federal government administrator, had a commanding lead of 27,862 total votes, or 59%, over homebuilder Greg Thielen with 19,123.
And leading in the race to succeed Joey Manahan representing the district from Kalihi to Foster Village, Cordero, Manahan’s chief of staff, won with 12,715 total votes while neighborhood board member Jacob Aki had 11,320 total votes.
The two other incoming Council members, Tupola and Say, won their seats earlier by receiving more than half of all votes cast in the primary election to avoid a general election runoff.
The four Council members staying on the job are Heidi Tsuneyoshi, Tommy Waters, Carol Fukunaga and Brandon Elefante.
Tulba, 52, grew up in Kam IV housing and has spent 28 years entertaining local audiences with his humor. Tulba also has been an executive assistant to former Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and former Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui. He has said part of his focus will be to keep cultural lifestyles and values intact.
Tulba said in a Star-Advertiser candidate questionnaire that he views the most pressing need in his district as public safety, particularly violent crime against seniors.
“While the resident population of the West Side has soared in recent decades, the number of police beats has not kept pace,” he said.
Trailing Tulba narrowly was Espero, 59, who served in the Senate for 16 years through 2018 after three years in the state House.
Kia‘aina, 57, has been U.S. Department of the Interior assistant secretary for Insular Areas in the administration of President Barack Obama, a Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources first deputy and Office of Hawaiian Affairs chief advocate. She also has been chief of staff to Hawaii Congressman Ed Case and a legislative assistant to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. Kia‘aina has said her cumulative work experience and determination will serve residents in the Windward Council district.
Kia‘aina said in a Star-Advertiser candidate questionnaire that she views the most pressing need in her district as the cost of living and affordable housing.
“I believe the City and County of Honolulu has a significant role to play in prioritizing affordable housing through zoning, streamlining planning and permitting policies and developing incentives to make housing more affordable for local residents,” she said.
Trailing Kia‘aina was Thielen, 52, who was born and raised in his district, where he also runs a small home-building business. He said he will help turn around an all-time low credibility and accountability in city government. Thielen is the son of state Rep. Cynthia Thielen and brother of state Sen. Laura Thielen, both of whom are leaving office.
Cordero, 30, has said that Manahan’s district needs a leader not subject to a learning curve, and that her experience includes 10 years working in local government along with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Hawaii.
Cordero said in a Star-Advertiser candidate questionnaire that she views the most pressing need in her district as affordable housing exacerbated by job losses due to COVID-19.
“I will collaborate toward fundamental mechanisms to ensure that current tenants are not displaced, that enough new units are truly affordable, and that they’re more integrated and sustainable than what we’ve built to date,” she said, adding that updating residential density rules are also part of her objective.
Trailing Cordero was Aki, 25, a member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board who also serves as chief of staff to state Sen. J. Kalani English of Maui.
Tupola, 39, 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 will replace Kym Pine representing portions of Ewa Beach to the Waianae Coast.
Say, 68, is president of his family-owned import-export business Kotake Shokai Ltd., and spent 46 years in the Legislature that included 14 years as House speaker. He will replace Ann Kobayashi representing Kaimuki to Ala Moana.