Analysis: Rail remains dominant issue in Honolulu mayor race

Analysis: Rail remains dominant issue in Honolulu mayor race
Published: Aug. 15, 2016 at 3:00 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 15, 2016 at 1:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just 1,500 votes -- and one major issue -- separated Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and former Congressman Charles Djou in Saturday's mayoral primary won by Caldwell. But a precinct-by-precinct analysis suggests it's an even tighter race for the two, who will face off each other again in a runoff election in November.

"One thing it says about this race is it's going to be incredibly hard fought over the next few months. Neither candidate has a real stronghold, which means they'll have to fight for every vote," said University of Hawaii political science professor Colin Moore.

Caldwell and Djou will face each other in the runoff because neither were able to get 50 percent plus one of the votes. In fact, both candidates achieved that margin in just a handful of voter districts.

"If you look at the precinct returns, what you see is that areas that are going to benefit from rail places like Pearl City were strong Caldwell supporters. Places that are always skeptical of rail, the Windward side, Hawaii Kai, the North Shore were Djou supporters," Moore said.

Along with Pearl City, Caldwell fared well in Manoa, where he lives, and Aiea and Mililani. Meanwhile, Djou did well in Sunset Beach and Kahuku, Kailua, east Honolulu and Kalihi. While Djou was up in the early polls, Moore said Caldwell won the primary because he courted many of former Mayor Peter Carlisle's pro-rail supporters. He also spent a lot of money on advertising "reminding everyone of his connections to the Democratic Party," Moore said.

Djou is a Republican but the mayoral race is nonpartisan. But Moore said Djou still has the momentum in the race: "He's still raising money, he's the newer candidate, he offers the fresher voice," said Moore.

As for Carlisle, he came in a distant third with just 9.2 percent of the vote but those votes will likely be a key battleground in the race ahead.

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