Voters overwhelmingly reelected Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami to a second four-year term in the county’s top executive seat in the general election on Tuesday, according to final results.

Kauai locator map

With almost all ballots counted, Kawakami had captured 73.3% of the vote and appeared poised to win by an even larger margin than he did four years ago in his first landslide victory. 

Michael Roven Poai, a political newcomer and longtime county employee, had grabbed 21.1% of the vote for the county’s mayor seat, according to the state Office of Elections.

Mayor Derek Kawakami handily won reelection to the county’s top executive seat. Brittany Lyte/Civil Beat/2022

The immense show of support for Kawakami underscores the public’s broad embrace for his unguarded personality, rigid Covid-19 policies and campaign promises to upgrade Kauai’s aging infrastructure and develop more affordable housing projects. 

He also benefited from circumstances his contender lacked — name recognition, institutional support, a proven track record and a greased fundraising machine.

Addressing a room of nearly 150 supporters gathered at Kauai Veterans Center, Kawakami discussed the effectiveness of his reelection campaign platform of hard work, integrity and change.

“We wanted to do things differently but focus on the basics of infrastructure, housing and developing people,” Kawakami said. “And we wanted to do it in radical ways, sort of like radical boring or radical vanilla.”

County Council

Voters on Kauai also sorted through more than two dozen candidates to elect members to the seven-seat County Council.

Luke Evslin was the top vote-getter with 7.6% of the vote, according to preliminary results. Other frontrunners were Bernard Carvalho, the former mayor who grabbed 7.1% of the vote, Addison Bulosan, who had 6.6%, former Councilman Mel Rapozo, who had 6.4%, incumbent KipuKai Kualii, who had 6.3%, incumbent Felicia Cowden, who won 6.0% and Councilman Billy Decosta, who had 5.8% of the vote.

But the seventh seat on the council, apparently won by DeCosta, may be too close to call. Former Councilman Ross Kagawa was the eighth highest vote getter with 11,137 votes compared to DeCosta’s 10,070 votes — a margin that has triggered a recount.

State law requires an automatic recount within 72 hours after polls close in any race with a margin of 100 votes or fewer or 0.25% of the total votes cast for the contest, whichever is greater.

All told, 14 candidates ran to fill seven seats after the field was narrowed down in the August primary, two of which are open due to term limits. Kauai is the only county council in the state without districts.

Charter Amendments

Voters also decided the fate of four charter amendment proposals to change laws that govern daily life in Kauai County.

Voters approved a proposal to avoid the expense of conducting a special election for the sole purpose of naming a new county prosecuting attorney when an early-term vacancy arises. 

A measure to revoke the County Council’s ability to establish a power authority to operate an electric utility was given the green light by voters.

Another proposed charter amendment approved by voters amends the charter to give the Salary Commission the authority to establish a maximum salary for elected and appointed officials, including department heads and deputies.

Lastly, voters rejected a proposal designed to better protect taxpayers from financial losses from fraud or other crimes committed by county employees.

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