Esther Kiaaina, Radiant Cordero and Augie Tulba all appear to have won their respective races for three Honolulu City Council seats, according to the results released early Wednesday morning by the Hawaii Office of Elections although there are about 12,000 ballots yet to be counted.

Kiaaina had 53.8% of the vote against her opponent Greg Thielen, who had 37.1%, in the District 3 race, which covers Kaneohe, Kailua and Waimanalo. The candidates were running to replace former City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson, who resigned in September and whose seat is being temporarily occupied by Alan Teixeira.

Cordero had 48.6% of the vote against her challenger Jacob Aki, who had 43.2%, in District 7. The area, currently represented by term-limited Councilman Joey Manahan, encompasses Iwilei, Kalihi and Salt Lake. 

Honolulu City Council District 3 candidate, Esther Kia'aina waves to drivers on the Windward side of Oahu, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Esther Kiaaina has decades of government experience. Her opponent Greg Thielen is a small business owner. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

In District 9, Tulba had 49% of the vote while former state Sen. Will Espero had 45.9%. The candidates were running to represent Waikele, Mililani, Royal Kunia and portions of Ewa Beach. Ron Menor, who currently holds the seat, is term-limited. 

The winners of Tuesday’s election will join two new council members who were elected outright in the August primary – former state Rep. Andria Tupola and former Hawaii House Speaker Calvin Say – along with sitting members Heidi Tsuneyoshi, Tommy Waters, Carol Fukunaga and Brandon Elefante. 

Radiant Cordero ran to take the seat of his boss, Joey Manahan. Courtesy: Friends of Radiant Cordero

Kiaaina is a seasoned government official who has mainly worked at the state and federal level, including as a Department of Interior official in the Obama administration. She currently serves as the executive director of the Pacific Basin Development Council, a nonprofit that promotes economic and social development in the Pacific Islands. 

She has previously run unsuccessfully for the OHA Board of Trustees and the U.S. House.

Thielen, a first-time candidate, runs a construction business and comes from a well-known local family. His mother is longtime Hawaii Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen. His sister, Democratic state Sen. Laura Thielen, backed Kiaaina’s campaign. His sister and mother both chose to leave the Legislature this year.

Cordero, who is Manahan’s chief of staff, and Aki, who is chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, are both young, educated and have similar policy goals. It’s their first bid for public office. 

Cordero campaigned as a “community connector” and advocate. Aki said he had a unique understanding of the district’s residents because he grew up with many of the same challenges his would-be constituents deal with, including domestic violence and poverty. 

Local celebrity and City Council candidate for district 9, Augie Tulba, volunteers during a food distribution event at Aloha Stadium, Friday, October 23, 2020.
Augie T. appears to have defeated a seasoned lawmaker.  Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

In his first run for office, Tulba campaigned for greater public safety in his district, improved transportation and other quality of life issues.

A veteran entertainer, Tulba proudly proclaimed he is “not a politician” and would bring the everyman perspective to city hall. 

Espero was a state legislator for 18 years. He later lost bids for the U.S. House in 2014 and the lieutenant governor’s office in 2018. Among Espero’s priorities were addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including impacts to the city’s budget and revenues; addressing homelessness with housing; and diversifying the economy. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more results come in.

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