Sunday, January 27, 2002

Ann Kobayashi and supporters cheered yesterday after hearing results in the race to fill former Councilman Andy Mirikitani's 5th District seat. She garnered 40.1 percent of the votes.

Ann Kobayashi wins
seat for 5th District

She beats out 13 opponents,
receiving 40.1 percent of votes
in the special election

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Former state Sen. Ann Kobayashi captured the Honolulu City Council vacated by Andy Mirikitani yesterday by a 2-to-1 margin over her nearest competitor.

Kobayashi got 4,967 voters, about 40.1 percent of those casting ballots in the winner-take-all race. Second-place finisher Sam Aiona, a former state representative, had 2,522 votes, or 20.4 percent.

"I have strong supporters who have been with me for many years," Kobayashi said last night.

A special assistant to Gov. Ben Cayetano in charge of youth programs, the 64-year-old Kobayashi spent 14 years in the state Senate, including a time as chairwoman of the high-powered Ways and Means Committee. She also served a stint as an executive assistant to Mayor Jeremy Harris.

She emphasized her experience and community service during the campaign.

The election was triggered by Mirikitani's resignation last month. Mirikitani, who served the Manoa-Makiki-McCully-Moiliili district since 1990, was convicted last July of extorting kickbacks from two of his former aides in exchange for bonuses from his city salary account. He is now serving a four-year, three-month prison term at Nellis Camp near Las Vegas.

Assuming no challenges to the validity of the election, Kobayashi will serve out the 11 months remaining on Mirikitani's term. She is also likely to be the favorite this fall in the regular election for a full four-year term.

The turnout by 12,376 voters, representing roughly 27.5 percent of the 44,968 registered voters in the district, was considerably lower than the last Council election in the district more than three years ago.

In 1998, 28,080 cast votes in District 5, a total turnout of 66.6 percent.

Observers said voters likely were discouraged by gray skies and the prospect of voting in only one race as opposed to the multi-election ballots during the regular campaign season.

Kobayashi said some of her supporters called her to complain that they showed up at longtime polling places only to find that they had moved elsewhere.

City Clerk Genny Wong said her office sent notices announcing the change in nine of 19 polling places because traditional spots were unavailable yesterday.

Voters said the actions of Mirikitani played a key role in whom they voted for.

Manoa resident Clayton Hale, who voted for Kobayashi, said the integrity of the candidates was a major factor he used in deciding a candidate. "I don't care if the candidate agrees with me, I want to make sure he or she is honest."

Joanne White of McCully voted for Aiona because "it's time for someone young. The others are stuck in their ways." White said she was unhappy but not surprised by Mirikitani's conviction because he had been in office so long. "They get bored with their jobs and forget why they're there."

Fire Capt. Richard Soo, whose face has become familiar to television viewers because of his former role as the Fire Department's spokesman, finished third with 1,177 votes, or 9.5 percent.

Attorney Richard Lee, the former state judge who ran advertisements promising to work for free, was in fourth place with 1,044 votes, or 8.4 percent.

Kobayashi outspent her opponents, according to reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission. As of mid-January, Kobayashi spent $18,925.95. Makiki Neighborhood Board Chairman John Steelquist reported expenditures of $14,725.75 from a war chest in which he loaned $50,000 to himself. He finished fifth.

Aiona spent $7,259.50 as of the reporting date. Lee spent $12,909.31 and Soo spent $3,879.25.

Kobayashi also collected a sizable chunk of support from special interests. She received the majority of endorsements, including nods from the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the Conservation Council of Hawaii and the Hawaii Women's Political Caucus.

Soo received endorsements from the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association and the Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Union Local 996, which represents bus operators. Aiona got support from GOP Hawaii Chairwoman Linda Lingle, Executive Director Micah Kane and other Republicans.

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