The former state legislator and Hawaii GOP chairman has already characterized himself as the anti-rail choice for District 6, which includes parts of Makiki, downtown Honolulu, Punchbowl, Liliha, Pauoa Valley, Nuuanu, Alewa Heights, Papakolea, Kalihi Valley and some of Kalihi.
In a press release announcing his candidacy, Aiona also appeared to be piggybacking on Cayetano’s assertion that this election can be seen as a referendum on rail.
“Voters are sending a clear message to city officials that they do not want the project and I believe the voters from Makiki to Kalihi deserve an opportunity to voice their opinion at the ballot box,” Aiona said. “I would rather lower people’s car registration and sewer fees, fix their sidewalks and restore funding to our bus system than spend over $5 billion on a train that will arguably not relieve traffic.”
It’s unclear how this message will resonate with voters in District 6. Although turnout is expected to be higher than most special elections, there are still 16 candidates in the race. This means that a small percentage of votes can carry a candidate into office.
For instance, when Berg was first elected to the Honolulu City Council during a 2010 special election he only received 18.5 percent of the vote. But in a 14-person race that was all he needed. His next closest opponent captured 15.5 percent.
In District 1, Berg is facing a challenge from state Rep. Kymberly Pine, who received some 34 percent of the vote in a five-way primary race. Berg came in a close second with just over 27 percent.
Berg has been a vocal opponent of the rail project, most recently showing up at protests in front of Honolulu Hale. He is also known to grill rail supporters, whether it’s Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka or the average citizen attending a meeting.
Pine, on the other hand, describes herself as a “constitutionalist” who supports voters’ decision to approve a steel-on-steel rail system for Honolulu. This makes her the pro-rail candidate on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The distinction between the candidates in the District 5 race is even more crystalline when it comes to rail.
Kobayashi is a long-time politician who has consistently voted against the project and has asked for audits of its operations.
She’s running against Jim Hayes, a geologist and environmental planner for Parsons Brinkerhoff. The company has $469 million worth of contracts on the rail project.
In a Civil Beat survey, Hayes said it’s time to speed up the project not slow it down.
These opposing views on rail — which is arguably the biggest issue facing the city and county today — should make for a lively lead-up to the Nov. 6 general election.
But even if Berg, Kobayashi and Aiona can ride the anti-rail push into office, it might not be enough to sway the rest of the council in the opposite direction.
All the other council members have voted for the project, leaving a six-member majority on the nine-person governing body. That’s the magic number, especially if Cayetano is elected. Six votes can override a mayoral veto.
That’s not to say that’s how the votes would turn out should the anti-rail slate take office in January.