Sunday, September 8, 2002

Election 2002



Baptiste, Kouchi
likely survivors

But Valenciano may draw enough
votes for a runoff in the mayor's race

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Right after the 1998 elections, newly re-elected Kauai County Council members Ron Kouchi and Bryan Baptiste each wanted to chair the Council.

The Council chairman gets several perks: a title, a gavel and a very nice office adjoining the Council chambers. In the end, Kouchi and Baptiste compromised: Kouchi got the title and the wooden mallet (and a small cubicle in the back of the building), and Baptiste got the nice office.

Now that they're both running for mayor, it's unlikely they'll divide things quite so amiably again.

Election 2002
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Incumbent Mayor Maryanne Kusaka is not eligible to run this year due to term limits.

Based solely on the two years they have planned their campaigns and built up sizable war chests, Kouchi and Baptiste have to be considered the two most likely to survive the September primary and square off in the general election in November.

But their main competitor, Councilman Randal Valenciano, who entered late with comparatively little money, can't be counted out. He could draw enough votes to force a runoff -- a candidate must win 50 percent of the votes plus one vote for an outright victory in September. Or he could knock off either of the two favorites.

There also is Dennis Nimkie, a veteran participant in charities and service clubs, but he is not expected to be a factor when the votes are counted.

On paper, it's a nonpartisan race. For the record, Baptiste is a Republican, and Kouchi and Valenciano are Democrats.

Nimkie says: "I'm neither a Democrat or a Republican, or a leftist or a rightist, or any other kind of political animal."

All three of the councilmen are running on "leadership style" rather than stands on issues.

"Leadership Style" is the first of 10 bullet points Baptiste has listed on his "issues" Web site. Neither "Leadership Style" nor the other nine items on the list receive any clarification.

Kouchi goes one better than Baptiste. The closest thing to an "issues" page on his Web site is entitled, "FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions of Ron Kouchi)." It consists entirely of one phrase: "Coming Soon."

And Valenciano summed it all up in an interview: "I want to be independent, so I'm happy."

Kauai mayoral candidates appeared Aug. 29 at a forum sponsored by the Kauai County Committee on the Status of Women. They were, from left, Bryan Baptiste, Dennis Nimkie, Randal Valenciano and Ron Kouchi.

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