Former Republican state Rep. Val Okimoto, attorney Matt Weyer and former construction lobbyist Tyler Dos Santos-Tam each won a four-year term on the Honolulu City Council on Tuesday, according to election results released Wednesday.

Vote totals also showed that Council Chairman Tommy Waters will keep his seat. 

Honolulu City Council chair Tommy Waters.
Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters sailed through to another term. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

In District 2, which covers the North Shore and Waikele, Weyer secured 56% of the vote to Makua Rothman’s 44%, the Wednesday vote totals show. 

In the race to represent downtown, Nuuanu and Kalihi, Dos Santos-Tam defeated Traci Toguchi, 54.5% to 45%. 

And Okimoto came out on top in District 8, which covers Peal City and Mililani. She secured 57% of the vote compared to 43% for Ron Menor, the longtime state legislator who sought a third term on the council.

Waters, the chair of the council for nearly two years, handily fended off his challenger Kaleo Nakoa with 74% of the vote. During his campaign, Waters pointed to his efforts to rein in monster homes and promote police accountability, public beach access and affordable housing.

A former Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member, Nakoa was perhaps best known for fighting against mask mandates at a Board of Education meeting this year. With no endorsements and only $4,000 in donations raised, Nakoa lacked the widespread support to unseat a generally well-liked incumbent.

The vast majority of votes have been counted but totals may be updated.

The new council members are expected to be sworn in on Jan. 2. However, if current District 6 Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga and District 8 Councilman Brandon Elefante win their races for state Senate, they will vacate their seats before then, and the council could choose to seat their successors early. 

The nine-member nonpartisan council of lawmakers has jurisdiction over city spending, zoning, development and more. Tuesday’s winners will sit alongside four incumbents who were not on the ballot this year: Andria Tupola, Calvin Say, Esther Kiaaina, Radiant Cordero and Augie Tulba. 

Throughout the candidates’ campaigns, they expressed their eagerness to address the issues residents are most concerned about including housing, homelessness, crime, rail, tourism and development. Alongside incumbent members, they will work with Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration to pass a new city budget in the spring. 

District 2: North Shore

Weyer will replace Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who vacated her seat to run as a Republican for governor. She lost the Aug. 13 primary to Duke Aiona.

In the race for her seat, Weyer and Rothman were vastly different candidates. 

A progressive attorney from Waikele, Weyer has not held elected office before but has government experience. He is on his third term on the Waipahu Neighborhood Board, works on housing projects for the city and previously served as a county prosecutor. The Mid-Pacific graduate has a master’s degree in public administration and is a self-proclaimed policy wonk. 

Weyer was backed by Waters and Vice Chair Esther Kiaaina, the Sierra Club of Hawaii and numerous labor unions including those representing teachers, hotel workers, carpenters, laborers, masons and operating engineers. He said his priorities would include reducing the cost of living, promoting public safety, updating infrastructure and protecting natural resources. 

Matt Weyer will represent Oahu’s largest district by geographic area. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

Rothman also had not run for office before, but he had name recognition in the race. 

He is a Native Hawaiian world champion big wave surfer, musician and the son of Eddie Rothman, the notorious founder of the surf gang and apparel company Da Hui

His campaign was backed by North Shore development interests and unions representing longshoremen, ironworkers and sheet metal workers. He also received support from former journalist Brenton Awa, who ran as a Republican for the state Senate, former Republican gubernatorial candidate BJ Penn and “Aquaman” actor Jason Momoa.  

Rothman is an ally of Tupola. He paid the councilwoman $32,000 this year for political advice through her company Hawaii Leadership Solutions, campaign spending data shows. 

District 6: Downtown Honolulu

Dos Santos-Tam won his race after years of building political connections. This was his second run for the seat after losing to Fukunaga in the 2018 primary and subsequently serving as chair of the Democratic Party. 

His resume also includes positions on the Liliha Neighborhood Board, the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission and the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce. He also co-founded the group HI Good Neighbor, which advocates against monster homes. He is a graduate of Punahou School and Yale University. 

Tyler Dos Santos-Tam spent Tuesday morning signwaving downtown. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

A former lobbyist for the Hawaii Construction Alliance, the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Dos Santos-Tam’s campaign was heavily supported by development interests. 

He raised over $200,000, including big-dollar donations from numerous labor unions, developers like Castle & Cooke and Christine Camp, and members of the Kobayashi real estate empire, campaign finance records show. 

Dos Santos-Tam also received support from Honolulu’s political establishment, including Waters and former mayors Kirk Caldwell and Mufi Hannemann.

As a councilman, Dos Santos-Tam said he would focus on addressing homelessness and affordable housing, crime, climate change and water infrastructure. After the results were announced Tuesday evening, Dos Santos-Tam told Hawaii News Now he is ready to get to work. 

“I’m looking forward to putting together a team fairly quickly and being able to start on these big issues, as well as the small issues that impact people’s day-to-day lives – the pothole in front of their kid’s school, the street light that’s out, the street sign that’s missing,” he said.

Throughout the campaign, Toguchi didn’t have much money to work with, campaign spending records show, although she did get a last-minute boost from unions representing ironworkers and general contractors. 

She campaigned on tackling crime, affordable housing and transportation safety. 

Although she had never run for elected office, Toguchi pitched herself as someone with institutional knowledge because of her position working in Fukunaga’s office. Previously, she was a singer, actress and Miss Hawaii pageant winner. 

District 8: Mililani

Okimoto will succeed Brandon Elefante, who served the maximum two consecutive terms. 

During the campaign, Okimoto pitched herself as a fresh face, a former teacher and single mom of two who is in touch with the district’s needs. During the campaign, she spoke about the importance of affordable housing, economic development, well-maintained infrastructure and climate adaptation. 

She has represented the Mililani area since 2018 as a state representative and has held roles in community groups including the Mililani Town Association. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. 

Val Okimoto has been a Republican state lawmaker since 2018. 

Menor already served two terms on the council from 2013 through 2021 in District 9, representing Mililani Town and Ewa Beach. However, the district changed after the election maps were redrawn last year. Menor, an attorney, previously served as a state representative and state senator.    

Menor ran on his experience and promised to bring “steady, effective” leadership. He was aided by a war chest of campaign donations totaling over $500,000 from his time as a council member. He also secured endorsements from Elefante, Gov. David Ige and state Rep. Ryan Yamane, who represents Mililani. 

Despite the advantage in name recognition and money, Menor was clearly threatened by Okimoto after she came in first place during the primary. In recent weeks, Menor has sent out negative mailers seeking to highlight what his campaign considered his opponent’s vulnerabilities, including her effort to repeal voting by mail, her votes against gun control bills, and her opposition to legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In another mailer, he touted his support for “Democratic policies.”

Voters Amend The City Charter

Voters also made decisions on four proposed charter amendments, which make changes to what is essentially the City and County of Honolulu’s constitution. 

The first question pertained to the city’s affordable housing fund, which automatically receives 0.5% of all real property tax revenue. Asked whether the city should increase the fund’s allotment to 1% of property tax income, a slim majority of voters said no. The latest results show 51.7% of votes were no, while 48.3% were yes. 

Another pot of money at the city –  the Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund – automatically receives 0.5% of real property tax revenue. The vast majority of voters, about 75%, supported a proposal to expand the use of that money, which is intended for conservation, to apply also to maintenance costs. 

With over 75% in favor, voters also overwhelmingly supported a proposal to require the Honolulu Planning Commission to have members with particular backgrounds. Going forward, the commission will need individual members with experience or expertise in Native Hawaiian practices, law or land usage; land use planning; land development and construction; and climate change and sea level rise or environmental protection. 

In response to the final charter question, 60% of voters decided to make the Office of Council Services a permanent agency under the charter. The office, which drafts legislation and provides legal guidance to the Honolulu City Council, can no longer be abolished by the council alone. 

Residents likely won’t feel the difference of the measure, which one council staffer called a “housekeeping item.” 

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?

About the Author