Maui voters cast ballots Tuesday for all nine County Council seats and several proposed charter amendments.

Political lines were drawn three election cycles ago between the more progressive Maui Ohana coalition and the conservative leaning Hui O Maui Citizens for Change. The Ohana group upended the establishment last election and was trying to hold onto their seats this year.

For the East Maui residency seat, Maui Ohana’s Shane Michael Sinenci — a 53-year-old special education teacher in Hana — was led with 46% of the votes, according to results released early Wednesday morning by the state Office of Elections.

Sineca was up against Hui O Maui’s Claire Kamalu Carroll, 51. The Hana resident, whose father held the seat for several terms, had 37% of the votes.

Maui Politics - Tamara Paltin
Tamara Paltin was running against Rick Nava for a seat on the Maui County Council. Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2020

Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, 31, was another Maui Ohana winner in 2018, and won re-election to represent Molokai with 44.1% of the vote. She defeated Stacy Crivello, 74, a former member of the council from 2013 to 2018. Crivello had 37.2% of the vote, according to early results.

Another of the 2018 Maui Ohana victors was West Maui’s Tamara Paltin, 43, a Lahaina lifeguard who ran for mayor in 2014. She had 47.2% of the vote against Hui O Maui’s Rick Nava, 61, who was president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce. He had 37.3%.

Maui Politics - Rick Nava
Rick Nava was up against Tamara Paltin for Maui County Council. Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2020

Kelly King, 60, who took the Kihei seat as an Ohana candidate in 2018, beat Hui O Maui’s Tom Cook, 65, with 47.7% of the votes against Cook’s 36%.

The third time looks like it was the charm for Maui Ohana’s Gabe Johnson, 47, a farmer who ran and lost in 2016 and 2018 to long-time council member Riki Hokama, who finally termed out. Johnson had 44.7% of the votes against Hui o Maui’s Alberta de Jetley, 75, who published a weekly newspaper on Lanai for several years before it was bought out. She had 34.6% of the vote.

Maui Politics - Gabe Johnson
Gabe Johnson ran against Alberta de Jetley for County Council. Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2020

Makawao’s Mike Molina, 60, a multi-term council veteran who did not run in 2018, easily beat Aja Eyre, 41, who was unaligned with either group. Molina was included in the flyers for both coalitions, but in the Hui flyer, he was endorsed, though not a member of the coalition. He won with 58.2% of the vote to Eyre’s 25.5%.

Running for the Kahului residency seat and winning in 2018 was Ohana’s Tasha Kama. She won re-election with 42.3% of the vote, but this time not as an Ohana candidate. Hui O Maui endorsed her candidacy in her run against Ohana’s Carol Lee Kamekona, 63, a political newcomer who had 38.5% of the vote.

Pukalani-Kula incumbent Yuki Lei Sugimura, 67, was unopposed as a Hui O Maui-endorsed candidate, as was Waihee-Wailuku-Waikapu’s council veteran Alice Lee, 72.

Charter Amendment Results

The sharp divide between the coalition candidates was reflected as well by the Maui Ohana endorsement of all seven charter amendments. The council passed seven resolutions proposing the charter amendments earlier this year, most by a super majority (6-3).

Maui Politics - Kelly King
Kelly King was up against Tom Cook for County Council. Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2020

Hui O Maui candidates were opposed to all of the amendments. So was a super PAC, which spent more than $110,000 on advertising to oppose the charter amendments and support Hui O Maui candidates. The group’s chair was Las Vegas-based consultant Grant David Gillham, who did not divulge who funds the PAC.

Mayor Michael Victorino was also opposed. He and the Hui candidates maintained that the county couldn’t afford funding the amendments.

Additionally, two flyers sent by Vote No on Charter Amendments Hui O Maui Nui We Can’t Afford It PAC claimed the proposed restructuring of the managing director position would give the council unprecedented power and reduce the mayor to a figurehead position. One of the flyers had four prior mayors opposing the proposed amendment.

election Maui Politics - Charter Ammendments/ Aja Eyre (volunteers)
Maui’s council races and charter amendments were often intertwined this election. Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2020

The first charter amendment proposal called for an increase in the affordable housing fund from 2% of the real property tax revenues to 3%. That amendment had 52.4% of the vote in support.

The second amendment proposal restructured the managing director position. It was failing with only 38.5% of the vote.

The third proposal called for a stricter council member term limit, setting it to five full terms of two years. Voters were in favor of it with 68.5% in support.

Legal interpretation of charter language was the subject of the fourth amendment. It proposed “to establish standards for interpreting and complying with the Charter, including by requiring a viable judicial action to be filed within 30 days to seek clarity when a conflict in the interpretation of the Charter is identified.” The vote was 55.3% in support.

Next was the proposal to change composition of the charter commission from all 11 members being appointed by the mayor to only two appointed by the mayor, with the nine members remaining appointed by the council, and each of the nine council members nominating one commission member. It had 48.6% in support.

The sixth proposed charter amendment removed the word “consecutive” from the mayoral limit of two full, four-year terms. That was passing with 66.1% in support.

Finally, the last proposed charter amendment would create a county department of agriculture. Cost was again the primary reason given by the proposal’s opponents. Farming groups were split on support. It was passing with 60.8% of the vote.

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

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