HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rail fans are rejoicing. Not only did the pro rail Honolulu mayoral candidate win, but four new rail supporters will be joining the city council.
"We fought hard for rail and we wanted to make it real sure that people know that we have other alternatives because right now we don't. Traffic sucks! I don't know how to say it in a nicer way," said Maeda Timson, Go Rail Go, an organization advocating for the rail project.
The surest way to stop rail completely would have been to elect anti-rail candidate Ben Cayetano. Instead he lost by 23,000 votes.
"I fight hard but if I lose I lose," said Ben Cayetano, about his unsuccessful bid for Honolulu Mayor.
Rail supporter Kirk Caldwell won but realizes the city still must get $1.5 billion in federal funding and resolve ongoing lawsuits.
"I don't think rail is ever out of the woods. A project of this size will span probably a decade to be built and costing more than any other project in the history of this place is going to remain controversial and I think it requires a hands on paying attention to the details every single day on the project. People are going to continue to ask questions and express concerns. If we don't address them, if we are not open and transparent I think you are going to see momentum come against rail once again. Charlotte built a system and half way through it they had a second referendum on whether to complete it so you can never take your eyes off the ball. You just have to keep moving it forward in a very methodical, open, transparent and fiscally responsible way," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor Elect.
Still rails path got much smoother. The project is losing two of its most vocal critics on the city council. Tom Berg was defeated. Romy Cachola is out on term limits.
Sam Aiona, who was running to replace Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's council seat, ran on an anti rail campaign and lost.
"Maybe the people of Oahu do want this rail project and that's their wish. That's why we have elections," said Sam Aiona, regarding his unsuccessful bid for Council District 6.
Former state lawmakers Carol Fukunaga, Kymberly Marcos Pine, Ron Menor and Joey Manahan will all join the council January 2 and all support rail.
The main rail critic left on the council is Ann Kobayashi, who did win re-election. She says a big reason for the anti rail defeat was the millions of dollars spent on negative ads attacking anti-rail candidates.
"That's what's sad is that Hawaii had this very negative campaign that happened this year and the outcome, they won," said Ann Kobayashi, Honolulu City Councilmember.
Ben Cayetano also said the negative advertising cost him thousands of votes and likely the election.
"It shows I think that negative campaigning has an impact," said Cayetano. "When you put big money into it, when one side has big money, unaccountable, and can spread lies and falsehoods about people then I think that affects the balance of the election system."
"You have to remember that PRP, Pacific Resource Partnership sent out a lot of mailers into our district when the absentee ballots were going out and obviously it worked," said Aiona.
Union advocate Pacific Resource Partnership spent nearly $3 million on negative campaigning. John White, PRP's CEO, declined an interview today. His spokesperson said it was a long night and he's feeling under the weather despite rail's big win.