Analysts expect
Council runoffs

Observers expect that a majority
of seats will not be easy wins

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

It's possible that all nine of this year's Honolulu City Council races could be determined in Saturday's "first special election."

Election 2002

But it is more likely that the outcome for a majority of those nonpartisan contests will have to wait for the Nov. 5 "second special election," said political observers interviewed by the Star-Bulletin yesterday.

The City Charter says a first-place finisher needs at least one vote more than 50 percent of votes cast to win a race outright this Saturday. Otherwise, the top two finishers will go head-to-head in the November general election.

Incumbent Gary Okino faces no opposition and needs only one vote to win in the 8th District (Fort Shafter to Waipio).

Political observers said they expect incumbents Romy Cachola and Ann Kobayashi to win easily. Cachola is opposed by Lillian Hong, who has run unsuccessfully for mayor in the past, and Kobayashi is running against political newcomer Kyle Kopitke.

"Ann is a shoo-in, and so is Romy," said political consultant and pollster Don Clegg, who has helped Mayor Jeremy Harris and others. "I don't seen anybody getting 50 percent plus one in any of the others."

"I don't think that's going to happen with any district not featuring an incumbent," said political analyst Dan Boylan, a history professor at the University of Hawaii at West Oahu.

Councilman Steve Holmes, who was forced into runoff elections in 1994 and 1998 before pulling off victories, said it is difficult to win outright in the first election whenever there is a large field. "Anytime you get five or six candidates, they all pull from some constituency," he said.

Other observers said the multitude of races this year has made it more difficult for Council candidates because media attention and campaign funding sources have been concentrated on high-profile races.

"As a result of such a wide range of candidates and races, I think the City Council races may not have received as much attention as is deserving," said Councilman John Henry Felix.

Boylan said, "All of the Senate races, all of the House races, all of the City Council races. Nobody has had enough money to speak of, to give themselves any attention at this point."

Former City Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann, who has said he will run for mayor in 2004, is watching the races closely. "I think these kinds of races come down to name recognition, obviously, and then visibility during the election season," Hannemann said.

Hannemann said a number of races featured candidates with strong name recognition going into the election season but noted that in some instances, others have been able to draw attention to themselves through hard work and a few endorsements. For instance, in the 2nd District (Mililani Mauka to Kaneohe), former state Sen. Gerry Hagino started out as the strongest known politician, Hannemann said, but political novices Donovan Dela Cruz and Ernie Martin have become contenders in what the observers consider a three-way race.

Besides the 2nd District, the experts considered the too-close-to-call races the ones for a seat in District 1 (Waianae to Ewa), District 3 (Kaneohe to Waimanalo) and District 4 (Hawaii Kai to Ala Moana). Each of those races features at least three candidates who have a chance to be in runoffs in November.

State Sen. Rod Tam in District 6 (Makiki to Fort Shafter) and state Rep. Nestor Garcia in District 9 (Makakilo to Mililani) have strong name recognition and campaign organizations.

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