It was a nail-biting few hours as the election returns came in, with two Kauai County Council incumbents finally losing their seats in the face of tough competition.
It seemed too good to be true when the first print out knocked four incumbents out of the game. And sure enough it was, with the final returns scrambling the results to resurrect two of the fallen.
After placing in the bottom four for the first two print-outs, Councilman Gary Hooser barely squeezed into seventh place at the end, pushing Chair Jay Furfaro out of the running. Councilman Tim Bynum, Gary's longtime ally, also lost his seat, taking a dismal twelfth in a field of fourteen.
Veteran politician and Council incumbent JoAnn Yukimura started out poorly, but steadily improved her standing as the ballots were counted, ultimately taking fifth place. And Councilman Mason Chock pulled himself way up from a poor primary showing to take sixth. Now that he's been legitimately elected, he can start working to overcome his sleazy start in politics.
Incumbents Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa took first and second place, respectively, followed by newcomer Arryl Kaneshiro and former Councilman KipuKai Kualii.
So now they have a solid majority on the panel, with Mel likely headed for the position of Council chair.
Though Arthur Brun and Police Chief Darryl Perry, in their first bid for political office, scored in the top seven for the first two returns, they dropped down to ninth and tenth place, respectively, by the time all the ballots were counted.
Still, it was a very close race between seventh and tenth place, with just 181 votes separating Darryl and Gary. The spread was much greater between elected Councilmembers, with Mel beating Gary by nearly 5,000 votes.
Mayor Bernard Carvalho easily defeated challenger Dustin Barca, a surfer and MMA fighter who ran on an anti-GMO platform.
Over in Maui County, the anti-GMO initiative squeaked through, by a vote of 51 to 49 percent, though the “no” side was ahead most of the night. Monsanto, Dow and others raised some $8 million to fight the initiative, which is almost certainly now headed for court.
Just like the Hawaii County anti-GMO law, which is currently under judicial review, and the Kauai GMO/pesticide regulatory bill, which was overturned by a federal court. It's hard to see how the Maui initiative will prevail, given the judge's ruling that the state, and not the counties, is empowered to regulate GMOs and pesticides.
And tomorrow, the Council will be taking up a proposal by Ross and Mel to repeal Kauai's invalid law, giving the anti crowd, Tim and Gary yet another chance to grandstand and make unsubstantiated claims.
Though it's clear the anti-GMO crowd has lost a majority on the Council, and now brings up the rear, it was not as soundly repudiated as the first print-out had promised.
Which means the social and political polarization of Kauai will continue. Just like on the national scene.