Waters and Ozawa locked in City Council cliffhanger

Honolulu City Councilman Trevor Ozawa and former state Rep. Tommy Waters were locked in a too-close-to-call battle for the Council’s District 4 (East Honolulu) seat late Tuesday night.

Waters held a 72-vote lead over Ozawa late Tuesday with more than 35,000 votes counted. Some mail-in and absentee ballots remained to be counted.

A Waters victory would shift the balance of power on the City Council in Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s favor.

Waters is a Caldwell supporter, and the mayor campaigned for Waters. They have been political allies since the two served in the state House of Representatives in the early 2000s.

Photos from Election Night in Hawaii

Ozawa is chairman of the powerful Council Budget Committee and among Caldwell’s most vocal critics.

Currently five of the nine Council members often oppose Caldwell’s initiatives.

A Waters victory would reverse that, meaning five Council members will likely support Caldwell’s agenda during his final two years as Honolulu Hale’s top dog.

In the only other Council race Tuesday night, Councilman Brandon Elefante held a comfortable lead over political newcomer Kelly Kitashima, a hotel executive and 2016 Mrs. Hawaii, for the Council District 8 (Aiea to Waipahu) seat.

Elefante is viewed as more friendly to Caldwell’s policies, while Kitashima has support from the mayor’s staunchest Council critics.

The anti-Caldwell faction is led by Council Chairman Ernie Martin.

While Martin is “termed out” and could not seek re-election, he is being replaced by Councilwoman- elect Heidi Tsuneyoshi, who won the seat outright in August. Tsuneyoshi is a Martin protege. She will join members Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi and Kymberly Pine in opposition to Caldwell.

Elefante and Waters, if he wins, would join Council members Ikaika Anderson, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor as Caldwell supporters.

In the four person election for the East Honolulu Council seat held in August, Ozawa led the pack with 2,637 more votes than second-place finisher Waters.

This year’s race, if Waters holds onto the lead, would be the reverse of the 2014 election.

In August 2014, Waters finished first among a field of four with 2,098 more votes than second-place finisher Ozawa. That November, Ozawa beat Waters in a one-on-one face-off by 41 votes.

Community advocate Natalie Iwasa, who finished third in this August’s runoff, threw her support behind Waters’ candidacy this time and has been critical of Ozawa on several fronts. Golf pro Ricky Marumoto, the fourth-place finisher in the runoff, also endorsed Waters.

Meanwhile a single City Charter amendment that city leaders had proposed failed resoundingly to win over Oahu voters. The amendment would have defined what makes up a quorum when the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board meets. HART oversees the city’s controversial $8 billion-plus rail project.

The HART board, for the past year, has had difficulty holding votes or taking any other action during meetings because of a struggle to maintain a quorum.

The proposed amendment would make it clear six members are needed to constitute a quorum.

HART Board Chairman Damien Kim said Tuesday night he was disappointed but not surprised in the result. Due to the amendment’s defeat, the HART board will continue to have quorum issues, which could cause delays in votes, delaying the project and adding costs, Kim said.

The problem quorum isssue came up last fall when the number of HART board members was increased to 14 from 10 by the state Legislature.

City officials believe it’s unclear whether the four members added by the Legislature are legally on the board because HART and its board were formed under the Honolulu Charter. Assuming the ballot question doesn’t pass, the ambiguity will continue, they said.

The City Council, before placing the question on the ballot, included in the proposal the addition of a fourth, Council-appointed board member. So approval of the amendment would mean the now 10-member HART board (nine of them voting) would have 15 members (nine of them voting).

For full Honolulu Star-Advertiser coverage of the 2018 general election, go to 808ne.ws/SA2018VOTE.


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