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UPDATED AT 11 P.M. With virtually all the vote in, former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano retained a consistent and sizable lead in the Honolulu mayor’s race.
Incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle conceded the second place spot to former Honolulu managing director Kirk Caldwell. “It’s clear to me that we’re not going to prevail tonight,” he said after the second batch of results was released.
Cayetano had 44.2 percent of the vote, with Caldwell at 29.1 percent and Carlisle at 24.8 percent.
Cayetano said he wasn’t too disappointed that he didn’t win the election outright. He would have needed more than 50 percent to win in the primary.
“We always knew that would be a stretch and I said earlier that we would have to be lucky to make that,” he said. “We’re happy that we got the votes that we got.”
Caldwell, Carlisle and others immediately began laying the groundwork for the Nov. 6 general, saying that it would be tough for Cayetano to win because they expected Carlisle’s votes would switch to Caldwell.
But Cayetano wasn’t buying that.
“I think our 44 percent is solid, we’re not going to lose any of that,” he said. “I don’t think Kirk is going to go up very much, I think it’s really a stretch for anyone to say that all of Peter Carlisle’s votes are going to go to Caldwell.”
Cayetano believes a larger turnout in November will benefit him, especially with all the Republican support he says he’s been getting. He said he thinks more Republicans will turn out in the general election than did in the primary because there weren’t any hotly contested Republican races on the ballot.
According to the State Office of Elections, Republican turnout in the city and county of Honolulu was 37,552. While the Office of Elections didn’t provide a party breakdown in the last presidential general election in 2008, more than 88,000 ballots were cast for Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Cayetano changed the complexion of the Honolulu mayor’s race when he decided to run. The two-term governor wants to kill the rail project.
This made Cayetano an instant lightning rod as both Carlisle and Caldwell support building the 20-mile, steel-on-steel elevated transit system. Carlisle is perhaps the staunchest supporter of the project, saying he would “plow forward” with or without federal money for the project. Caldwell, on the other hand, has been trying to carve out a middle ground by telling voters he would “build rail better.”
Business and labor groups rallied to try to stop Cayetano from dismantling the $5.26 billion project that they believed would create jobs and boost the economy. Despite this push back, Cayetano has always been the frontrunner in the race.
Moving forward, it’s expected PRP will continue its attacks on Cayetano. What will also become clear between now and the Nov. 6 election is whether support for Caldwell will combine with Carlisle’s supporters to overtake Cayetano. That would make the rest of the campaign much tougher for the former governor.
Shortly after conceding Saturday, Carlisle showed up at Caldwell’s election night headquarters to back his fellow pro-rail candidate. He said before he left office he would take Caldwell to Washington D.C. to meet with Peter Rogoff, the head of the Federal Transit Administration, and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye to make sure Honolulu doesn’t miss out on $1.55 billion in federal rail money.
“One thing Peter and I agree on lockstep, 100 percent is we need to build rail,” Caldwell said with enough lei around his neck to touch his ears. “He knows as I know it is about a better future for everyone on this island no matter where you live.”
Inouye even made a cameo under Caldwell’s tent, showing up to say a few words to rally the support and advocate for rail.
“The campaign is not over, but I look forward to working with him on the rail,” Inouye said. “Kirk and I can do it.”
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