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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:35 a.m., Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Kaua'i GOP maintains control with Baptiste win

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua‘i—Councilman Bryan Baptiste took a populist message and a reputation as a community organizer to victory in the Kaua'i mayor’s race last night.

In otherwise strongly Democratic Kaua'i, the mayor’s seat remains in Republican hands. Republican Baptiste will take the top county job from Republican Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who has held it for eight years.

Baptiste led Councilman Ron Kouchi, a Democrat, by a strong margin last night after both candidates predicted the race would be very close. "It’s close, and it’s gonna be close all night," Baptiste said early in the evening.

Both candidates said no new issues surfaced in late campaigning, although Kouchi raised questions about a series of last-minute Baptiste endorsement mailings that failed to list his campaign as the source of the mailings. Baptiste admitted the mailings and said the failure to list his campaign as the source was an error.

From the beginning to the end of their campaign, the key campaign difference was the kind of decision-making they would employ—bottom-up or top-down.

Baptiste, 47, with three Council terms under his belt, said he would assign department heads to specific communities as liaisons with the county government, and would let the wishes of the people drive county decision-making. His theme: "You can’t do the same things the same way and expect different results."

Kouchi, 45, a ten-term veteran of the Council, emphasized his own experience as a veteran in county government. His theme: "The right leader for the challenge ahead."

In the Kaua‘i County Council race, the three incumbents—Kaipo Asing, Jimmy Tokioka and Daryl Kaneshiro—easily won re-election to the County Council.

Four new members of the Council will include familiar faces. One is former mayor JoAnn Yukimura, staging a strong political comeback after losing the mayor’s seat eight years ago. Former Councilman Joe Munechika is also back.

Hotel manager Jay Furfaro, a longtime member of the county Planning Commission, eased into office in his first Council try—the only first-timer to make it. Private investigator Mel Rapozo, in his second run for the Council, filled out the ticket.

While the at-large Council is technically non-partisan, the majority of the winners are Democrats.

Three county charter changes were on the ballot.

Voters overwhelmingly supported a measure that would set aside one-half of a percent of county real property tax revenues to buy open space and public accessways.

The voters appeared to reject another that would ease initiative and referendum efforts, reducing the number of signatures needed to put initiative or referendum items on the ballot from 20 percent to 15 percent of the number of people voting in the previous general election.

The third charter amendment to allow the county to establish an independent power authority, may be moot, since a local cooperative has completed the purchase of the Kaua‘i Electric Company. Voters seemed to be narrowly supporting it.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.