Honolulu Councilman Trevor Ozawa led challenger Tommy Waters in the primary election Saturday in the race for City Council District 4, but the two are headed for a November runoff.

Ozawa got 40.4 percent of the vote and Waters had 31.3 percent, according to the state Office of Elections.

Waters, a former state representative, lost to Ozawa by 41 votes four years ago in the race for the same seat, which represents east Honolulu from Hawaii Kai to Wilhelmina Rise and includes Waikiki, portions of Kapahulu, Black Point and Diamond Head.

Trevor Ozawa and his wife, Nietzsche, check election results Saturday night in Hawaii Kai. Courtesy of Trevor Ozawa

Ozawa sat at Maile’s Thai Bistro in Hawaii Kai with campaign volunteers, staff from his office and family members on Saturday night waiting for the third round of results to publish at 10 p.m. He had spent most of Saturday visiting every polling station in his district. At one point someone asked him if he was running for mayor.

“I’m running against the mayor, I’m running for City Council,” Ozawa said he responded.

Ozawa, who belongs to a faction on the City Council that has been hostile to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, said he considers himself to be “standing up to the mayor and standing up to Tommy.”

Tommy Waters, left, watches election returns with Ray and Cheryl Soon in Kahala. Natanya Friedheim/Civil Beat

Wearing lei and a bright orange aloha shirt, Waters gathered with about 30 supporters in the lobby of a Kahala apartment complex Saturday night.

“We’re in the game,” he said. “If the numbers hold, I’ve got three months to work with all my might.”

There were two other candidates. Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member Natalie Iwasa had 13.5 percent of the vote and east Honolulu resident Ricky Marumoto had 2.1 percent.

A City Council candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary wins outright. Otherwise the two highest finishers go on to the general election in November.

Heidi Tsuneyoshi, an aide for Councilman Ernie Martin, won the race for District 2, covering Oahu’s North Shore. Martin is termed out of the seat, which represents the North Shore, Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, and the communities of Koolauloa along Oahu’s east coast.

Tsuneyoshi had 48.8 percent of the vote over former state Senate president Robert “Bobby” Bunda, who had 25.6 percent, official state numbers show. But when blank and over votes are excluded, Tsuneyoshi is at 53.4 percent.

Heidi Tsuneyoshi Tracy Wright Corvo

Real estate broker Choon James had 12.7 percent of the vote and Kahuku farmer Dave Burlew had 3.5 percent.

“I’m feeling so overwhelmed and amazed and thankful for how things are turning out,” Tsuneyoshi said. “We’re all kind of in shock but we’re so happy … I’m so thankful for the community and the voters for putting their faith in me.”

Incumbent Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga won District 6 with 44.8 percent of the vote. The district includes mauka neighborhoods from Punchbowl to Aiea as well as Makiki, Kakaako, downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. Fukunaga has represented District 6 since 2012.

When blank and over votes are excluded, Fukunaga climbs to 52.5 percent, enough to avoid a runoff.

Honolulu City Council member Carol Fukunaga in committee meeting.
Honolulu City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga received enough votes to avoid a runoff. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

She faced three challengers in the primary. Construction lobbyist Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, who had 16.9 percent of the vote, magazine publisher Ikaika Hussey, who had 19.2 percent and city planner Zach Stoddard who had 4.2 percent.

Three of the nine seats on the Honolulu City Council are on the primary ballot.

Only two candidates, incumbent Councilman Brandon Elefante and Kelly Kitashima, are running for the District 8 council seat and both will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. District 8 includes lower Aiea, Pearl City, Waimalu, Newtown, Pearl City, Sea View, Crestview, Waipio Gentry and Waipahu.

Balance Of Power

The council races may shift the balance of power in the city’s legislative branch. The outcomes have the potential of creating a council that is friendlier to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s initiatives, including the $9 billion rail project.

Honolulu’s council is bipartisan, but two factions have formed. Five of the current members, led by outgoing Council Chair Martin, are typically antagonistic toward the mayor.

While Waters and Ozawa agree on many policy ideas, their political support comes from different factions

When Martin regained the chairmanship in March, he appointed Ozawa as the powerful Budget Committee chair. Ozawa also has support from former Republican Congressman Charles Djou, who ran against Caldwell in the 2016 mayoral race.

Meanwhile the Friends of Caldwell gave the Waters’ campaign $4,000, the maximum amount a Honolulu council candidates can receive.

A similar split can be seen between Fukunaga and Dos Santos-Tam in the race for District 6.

The former executive director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance, Dos Santos-Tam has never held elected office, but was tapped by Caldwell in 2013 to serve on the city’s Neighborhood Commission. His campaign is backed by many of the state’s politically influential construction unions.

Fukunaga, who served for three decades in the state Legislature, has voted with Martin’s bloc on faction-divided measures, including tax and fee increases Caldwell proposed in 2017

Djou endorsed Fukunaga’s campaign. He also played an active role in Tsuneyoshi’s bid for District 2.

Tsuneyoshi campaigned on the promise of easing the tax burden on locals. She also wants to cap property taxes on long-term residents.

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