Honolulu City Council candidates Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, Matt Weyer and Val Okimoto are in the lead in races to represent downtown Honolulu, the North Shore and the Pearl City area, respectively, according to primary election results published Saturday and Sunday evenings.

All three council races on the ballot are set for runoff races in the Nov. 8 general election, with Dos Santos-Tam facing Traci Toguchi for District 6, Weyer against Makua Rothman for District 2 and Okimoto facing Ron Menor in District 8.

The winners will join a group of nine powerful lawmakers for Honolulu’s county government. In the months of campaigning, the candidates have said they are eager to tackle the biggest issues facing the island, including affordable housing and homelessness, rail, development, tourism and government accountability.

From left to right, Honolulu City Council candidates Matt Weyer, Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, Ron Menor, Makua Rothman, Traci Toguchi and Val Okimoto are likely to face runoff votes in November. Graphic/Courtney Teague/Civil Beat

It’s a consequential election. The new makeup of the council could shake up the power balance of the body. Depending on the alliances of the new and old members, there could be an opportunity for a new chair, who could determine who shares the most powerful committees.

Dos Santos-Tam was the dominant candidate in District 6, receiving over 33% of votes cast. The area, currently represented by Carol Fukunaga, encompasses Kakaako, downtown Honolulu, Nuuanu, Iwililei and Kalihi. Fukunaga hit her limit of two consecutive terms. She is running this year for state Senate.

Following behind Dos Santos-Tam is Toguchi, a legislative analyst in Fukunaga’s office and a former Miss Hawaii, with 20% of the vote.

To win the primary election outright, a candidate would need 50% of votes plus one. Absent that, the top two candidates advance to the runoff election in November.

Dos-Santos Tam, draped in layers of lei at his election night party in Chinatown, said the results validate the community engagement he’s been doing. 

“This shows this district is hungry for a council member who is going to take action, understands the issues and who has a plan to help deal with the things people face in their community – crime, homelessness, affordable housing,” he said. 

Honolulu City Council candidate Tyler Dos Santos-Tam throws a shaka with former mayor Mufi Hannemann at Dos Santos-Tam's election watch party.
Honolulu City Council candidate Tyler Dos Santos-Tam threw a shaka with former mayor Mufi Hannemann at Dos Santos-Tam’s election watch party. Christina Jedra/Civil Beat/2022

Brandon Mitsuda, who served with Dos Santos-Tam on the Liliha Neighborhood Board, said the candidate stands out for his proactive attitude. 

“He does not wait for people to ask him what to do,” Mitsuda said. “He looks for the problems, independently solves the problems and then reports the good results back to the community, every time. And he is always working for the people. He doesn’t stop.”

In District 2, Weyer was the top vote-getter in the race to replace council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who was running for governor. The district covers central and northern Oahu, including Waikele, Wahiawa, Haleiwa, Pupukea, Laie and Kahaluu. 

Weyer secured about 30% of the vote, followed by Rothman with just under 28%. Chad Tsuneyoshi, Racquel Achiu and Lupe Funaki each garnered less than 20% of votes.

“For me, it’s not about surfing anymore, it’s about serving,” Rothman said in a statement earlier in the day.

District 8 is another tight race between Okimoto, an outgoing Republican state representative, and Menor, a former councilman and retired state lawmaker.

Menor appeared to be leading the race based on first and second printouts released Saturday evening but fell behind in results published on Sunday. The third printout shows Okimoto with 39% of the vote and Menor with over 37%.

The seat is currently held by council member Brandon Elefante. The winner will represent the Pearl City area, Waipio and Mililani. 

Oahu council districts with 2022 primary races.
Four Oahu districts are on the ballot this year, including three primary races. District 4 will be on the general election ballot in November. 

Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters, who represents the area from Waikiki to East Oahu in District 4, faces a single challenger, Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member and Coast Guard veteran Kaleo Nakoa in this election cycle. However, because there are only two candidates in the race, the voters won’t pick a winner until the November general election.

Because of a staggered election schedule, the remaining seats on the nine-member, nonpartisan City Council were not on the ballot this year. The winners of the primary contest will join members Esther Kiaaina, Andria Tupola, Calvin Say, Radiant Cordero and Augie Tulba. 

Dos Santos-Tam’s campaign, the most well-funded in the District 6 race, was supported by the construction industry and union money and was backed by former Mayor Kirk Caldwell, campaign spending data showed.

The former head of the Democratic Party and a former construction lobbyist, Dos Santos-Tam is an affordable housing advocate who supports building the Honolulu rail all the way to Ala Moana. 

Toguchi, who has been a singer and actress in film and on stage, told Civil Beat she was a reluctant candidate for office. However, as a current city council staffer, she said she would bring institutional knowledge and hands-on experience.

The District 6 candidates who will not advance to the runoff include anti-corruption candidate Ikaika Hussey; retired state legislator Dennis Nakasato; Hawaiian musician Nalani Jenkins; YMCA child care worker Chance Naʻauao-Ota; and former congressional staffer Chad Wolke.

Finding ways to fight crime was a major campaign focus for most of the District 6 candidates, with four of them calling the issue a top concern in this urban district that has been the site of several recent violent attacks, including the killing of a security guard in Chinatown.

In District 2, a race made up entirely of first-time candidates, Weyer benefited from support from his former boss, Council Chair Tommy Waters, as well as Council Vice Chair Esther Kiaaina and Caldwell, according to campaign spending data. 

Weyer also had major labor union support including from groups representing government workers, nurses, teachers, engineers, hotel employees and others. The Mid-Pac and University of Hawaii graduate currently works in the city’s Department of Community Services. He is also an attorney who previously served as a city prosecutor. 

North Shore big wave surfer Rothman had the advantage of name recognition. Rothman – son of Eddie Rothman, founder of the North Shore surfing club Da Hui – ran with the support of Council member Andria Tupola, former Council Chair Ernie Martin and “Aquaman” actor Jason Momoa. 

With donations from the ironworkers and masons unions, Resort Group founder Jeff Stone and local developers, including the Judd family, Rothman raised more money throughout the election than any other candidate in the District 2 race.

Chad Tsuneyoshi, a businessman and political consultant, was unsuccessful in his bid to take the seat of his ex-wife. Despite support from the unions for electrical workers and sheet metal workers and Karen Chang, wife of Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Tsuneyoshi garnered 20% of votes counted. 

Achiu, a farmer and North Shore Neighborhood Board member, attracted 16% of the vote. During the campaign, Achiu, who grew up in Haleiwa, spoke about reining in overtourism, giving property tax breaks to older adults and to Hawaiians and protecting agricultural lands from development.

And Lupe Funaki, a Brigham Young University adviser and single mom of 11, earned just 6% of votes counted. 

The District 8 seat opened up after Elefante hit his term limit and, like Fukunaga, ran for state Senate this year.

Okimoto, the Hawaii House minority leader, was elected in 2018. If elected to the city council, the former special education teacher said her priorities would include investing in infrastructure, economic development and promoting public safety.

Menor previously served as a council member from 2013 through 2021 in District 9 before election map boundaries were redrawn. He is also a former Democratic state representative, state senator and attorney. Menor, who said he would bring “steady, effective and experienced leadership,” benefited from campaign contributions from labor unions, developers and attorneys, his campaign finance reports showed.

The District 8 candidates who will not proceed to the runoff include Keone Simon, a former Republican state house candidate backed by Tupola; Charmaine Doran, a real estate agent who served decades on the city council staff, and Dion Mesta, a legislative aid to Elefante.

Civil Beat reporter Kirstin Downey contributed to this report. 

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