Top 2 vote-getters in Kauai, Maui mayoral races to advance to general election

Kawakami ahead in Kauai mayoral race

HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Voters on Kauai and Maui headed to the polls on Saturday to choose their next mayor.

The top two vote-getters for each race will advance to the general election Nov. 6.

On Kauai, County Councilmember Derek Kawakami — who secured the most votes by the final printout — will face County Council Chairman Mel Rapozo in the general election.

Also on the ballot were County Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura, Department of Parks and Recreation director Lenny Rapozo and Hanamaulu resident Clint Yago.

The five contenders were campaigning for a seat being vacated by current Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who's running for lieutenant governor.

The race comes at a time when the county continues to rebuild from one of its biggest disasters in recent years.

In mid-April, historic flooding swamped areas of the north shore, damaging some 530 homes and triggering landslides that made roads — like Kuhio Highway — impassable, blocking access to key communities.

Kauai's tourism and economy also took a major hit as a result of the flood disaster.

Some parts of the island's north shore that were once inundated with thousands of visitors almost went down to nothing. And now, the county is trying to figure out how it will reshape that part of the island into the thriving community it once was.

Kauai's mayoral candidates are hoping to play an integral part in that process.

"At this point, I'm just very relaxed. And I'm very optimistic," said Kawakami. "The overwhelming response that we've been able to get since we have announced we're running for mayor has been tremendous."

"I think we were able to get our message out," Rapozo said. "We obviously had a grassroots campaign, we didn't have the funds like some of our opponents, but we focused on grassroots, we focused on word of mouth, and we were on social media a lot."

A crowded race for Maui mayor

Meanwhile, on Maui, it was a crowded race for mayor that includes seven candidates.

By the the third printout, Former Councilmember Mike Victorino clinched the most votes, followed by Councilwoman Elle Cochran. The two will square off in November's general election.

Other Maui mayor candidates included Councilmember Don Guzman, Beau Hawkes, Alec John Hawley, Orion Kopelman and Laurent Zahnd.

Days before the primary election, Cochran had been in the spotlight for her past criminal conviction.

In 1993, when she was 28, she served four years probation and completed 200 hours of community service for her role in the robbery of a group of tourists in Lahaina.

Her response: "No one's lives or stories are perfect. We all make mistakes in life," Cochran said. "I feel I'm a role model … for people who are possibly going through the same thing."

These candidates were vying for the seat currently held by Mayor Alan Arakawa, who is running for the Kahului seat of the Maui County Council.

Arakawa has been a controversial figure in recent years, dating back to concerns of how he handled repairs in Iao Valley since a major flood in September 2016. And he set off a firestorm of criticism from Native Hawaiian activists, practitioners and lawmakers for dismissing concerns about the destruction of sacred rocks in Iao Valley, saying there's "no such thing as sacred rocks."

Other issues facing Maui: Climate change has been at the forefront of ongoing discussions, with rising sea levels eating away at shorelines.

On Maui's west side, fears of rising sea levels near Honoapiilani Highway prompted the state to begin its realignment project, moving the vital route into West Maui further inland.

And the growing threat erosion has also been so extreme, that it's been taking a toll on dozens of properties on Maui, including a cemetery at a historic site. Erosion also been at the center of a dispute over construction of a new seawall in West Maui.

This story will be updated.

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