3 political candidates challenge Kauai mayor in re-election bid

HNN's political analyst thinks it could be an easy win for the incumbent.
Published: Jun. 26, 2022 at 5:26 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 4:07 AM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai County voters are preparing to elect a new mayor. Incumbent Derek Kawakami is nearing the end of his first term, and is being challenged by three political newcomers.

They have a wide range of views on a number of issues, but far less experience in politics.

Hawaii News Now’s political analyst Colin Moore thinks it could be an easy win for the incumbent.

“He’s a popular mayor, he’s had a lot of success managing COVID, he’s a charismatic politician — and he doesn’t have a lot of strong opponents,” Moore said. “By that I mean people who are experienced policy makers who hold office.”

Those opponents include 61-year-old Mitch McPeek, 71-year-old Megeso William-Denis, and 47-year-old Michael Roven Poai.

McPeek moved to Kauai from California in the 80s. He believes children shouldn’t be forced to wear masks, and the government was heavy handed in their COVID response. He claims individual rights were taken away.

“When I filed my papers, I looked around and there was nobody standing up, nobody standing up against what’s going on right now. Nobody’s standing up for freedoms, nobody’s standing up for rights, So I applied,” McPeek said.

He added he wasn’t happy with Kawakami’s leadership during the height of the pandemic.

“The guy failed completely. Just to be perfectly honest with you. He failed. He locked us down,” McPeek said. “The guy completely denied every single one of our rights.”

Meanwhile, former business executive Megeso William-Denis also supports an individual’s right to choose, and is passionate about making Kaua’i a place of sustainability. He’s aiming to produce more food locally and wants to expand renewable energy sources.

“These issues are very important to me when it comes to our natural resources, and our own freedoms. So its time to get in the fray, get my opinoin, my life experiences out there, and show how I can benefit with a new vision, the growth of Kaua’i as a local sustainable community,” William-Denis said.

And the third challenger is Kapa’a resident Michael Roven Poai. He’s worked for the county for 24 years. His priorities include finding a solution to the island’s landfill problems, and providing more showers for homeless communities.

“It’s not the easiest job in the world, but like I promised the people honesty. And the first thing is to put the right administration in there so we can bring Kaua’i back to the old school ways. Simple, basic, so we can get the job done,” Poai said.

Kawakami welcomes the challengers and acknowledges their drive to better the island for the residents.

He looks back at his first term and sees communication during COVID as a win. He also praises his team’s ability to advance infrastructure projects while pulling off the creation of affordable housing options and transitional housing services.

“When I say a mayor’s job is never done, it truly is never done. And that’s why we have made it a point to focus our energy and effort and our capital and resources on infrastructure and quality of life issues and creating jobs,” Kawakami said.

He said he will continue to focus on infrastructure if re-elected. He’s also leading the pack in fundraising.

Moore praises him as an effective communicator, which will play to his strength in getting his message to the voters.

“If you’re a politician who has real communication talents, that really benefits you. And I think he’s one of the few politicians, actually in Hawai’i I would say, who really is an excellent communicator. We don’t have a whole lot and Mayor Kawakami really stands out in that regard.”

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