Incumbent Kirk Caldwell led challenger Charles Djou 43.7 percent to 42.8 percent in the race for mayor of Honolulu, according to the fourth round of election results released just before midnight Saturday.
Former mayor Peter Carlisle came in third with 9.2 percent while eight other candidates combined shared small slices of the remainder of the vote.
Caldwell outpolled Djou by less than 1,600 votes.
Once blank and “other” votes are subtracted from the total votes for all candidates, as the State Elections Office requires, Caldwell still did not break 50 percent of the total.
Still, the mayor was quite happy with the results.
“I love each and every one of you so much!” Caldwell said to his stoked supporters shortly after arriving at his campaign headquarters on Nimitz Boulevard around the time of the second printout earlier in the evening. “We live in the most incredible place on the entire planet, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific!”
Gov. David Ige later joined the mayor to proclaim how he looked forward to his continued partnership in government.
Ige said he told his wife, Dawn, “Kirk’s going to surprise a lot of people tonight.”
The governor cautioned, however, that the “true battle” is in November.
Meanwhile, at Djou’s primary election party at the Pearl County Club, the candidate told Civil Beat that he wasn’t surprised by the results given the tough odds.
“We only started two months ago. We were heavily outspent. We went up against an incumbent administration and all of his appointees with all of his machinery here. We had a 100 percent all-volunteer campaign. And yet here we are toe to toe with the mayor and his administration,” he said. “And so we feel good and we look forward to going onto the November election.”
When he arrived close to 9 p.m., Djou prompted a standing ovation and the loudest applause of the evening from over 100 supporters. He gave an optimistic speech and thanked both his supporters and competitors.
“Let’s bring the city government that we deserve to Honolulu,” he said. “Let’s win this in November!”
Campaign volunteers said afterward they wished Djou had gotten over half the vote but that they were still encouraged.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Don Aweau from Ewa Beach. “We’ll be able to pull it off (in November).”
When the first round of results were announced on TV screens at the Caldwell campaign headquarters at the Nimitz Center, the crowd erupted in cheers — almost as if it was too good to be true. Recent public opinion polls had shown Djou with a 9 percentage point lead over the mayor.
When the second round was released, everyone jumped to their feet to shout in unison and chanted, “Four more years!”
Asked by a KHON reporter if he was going to concede, Carlisle replied, “at 9 percent that’s not conceding, that’s being flattened out by a steamroller.”
Carlisle acknowledged he would not win, but said he wasn’t throwing his support to either candidate.
Caldwell thanked Carlisle for running a professional campaign and expressed the view that their votes combined show that a majority of voters want the full rail line built to Ala Moana Center.
The competition for mayor has centered heavily on the unfinished Honolulu rail project.
Djou has argued that a change in leadership at Honolulu Hale is necessary in order to salvage rail, which is way behind schedule and several billion dollars over budget.
Currently, there is not enough money to complete the full route to Ala Moana Center. Construction is expected to stop once a section connecting Honolulu International Airport with Middle Street is completed.
Caldwell expressed confidence that the estimated $1.5 billion needed to finish rail can be secured. It’s a position shared by Carlisle, but no one knows precisely where the money will come from — the federal government, Oahu taxpayers, the private sector, some other source or a combination.
The campaigns of Djou and Caldwell have been in near constant attack mode for the past few weeks. Each campaign accuses the other of having no real plan for rail and of not leveling with voters.
Homelessness, affordable housing, police reform and ethics have also dominated the mayoral contest.
Djou served briefly in Congress and is a former City Council member and member of the state House of Representatives.
Caldwell is a former House member, too, although he served as a Democrat while Djou was elected as a Republican. Before he was elected in 2012, Caldwell was acting mayor in 2010, the year he lost to Carlisle.
Carlisle was the longtime city prosecutor before becoming mayor. All three candidates are attorneys.
The mayoral contest is nonpartisan, but Djou has emphasized that he has the support of prominent Democrats like former Gov. Ben Cayetano while Caldwell has advertised that former Gov. George Ariyoshi and current Gov. David Ige support him.
Djou and Caldwell have also been endorsed by a number of labor unions, which historically align with Hawaii Democrats. Financially, Caldwell has received far more money than Djou in campaign contributions. But then Caldwell has been mayor for almost four years while Djou did not announce his candidacy until this year, and has been raising more money than Caldwell in recent months.
Here are the final totals for the other eight candidates: Lillian Hong 0.7 percent, Ernest Caravalho 0.5 percent, Ron Hochuli 0.4 percent, Larry Friedman 0.2 percent, Mike Powers 0.2 percent, Kurt Baker 0.2 percent, Zachary Burd 0.1 percent and Tim Garry 0.1 percent