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Waters Wins Honolulu City Council Special Election

Ryan Finnerty

Tommy Waters is the apparent winner in the Honolulu City Council special election representing District 4 stretching from Waikiki to Hawaii Kai. The unofficial results show Waters drew 17,491 votes to Trevor Ozawa's 16,487, a margin of 1,004 votes.

Waters said after his win that he would be making a check list of items to work on.

"As you guys know, I've been walking door-to-door for 15 months. There's a lot of needs in our community. I want to make a long list of priorities and just start checking them off one at a time," Waters said.

He also had positive comments for Ozawa, despite sometimes sharp exchanges between the two during the campaign. "Right on, bruddah. Good luck to you in the future," Waters said. "You ran a spirited campaign. Nothing but aloha for that, bruddah."

There is a 20-day challenge period, followed by a possible judicial review, before a winner can be certified.

Ozawa congratulated Waters, but stopped short of conceding. "As of now, we have no reason to believe that it's not accurate" he said of the results. "But we're not saying that we're contesting it, we're just saying that we have to look at it personally."

Among those attending Waters' election night event at The Brilliant Ox in Ala Moana Center were Council members Joey Manahan, Ikaika Anderson and Ron Menor, who are viewed as more closely aligned with Mayor Kirk Caldwell than others on the council.

Ozawa frequently criticized Caldwell and promoted an image in the campaign as an independent voice on the council. One of Ozawa's campaign brochure had called Waters a "lap dog" of the mayor, a label that Waters had rejected.

Saturday's special election was the latest faceoff between the two candidates. In the Nov. 6 general election, Ozawa received 18,358 votes to Waters' 18,336, a margin of 22 votes in Ozawa's favor. But Waters challenged the results, arguing that the city elections office made errors in the count.

The Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the general election results in January, setting the stage for Saturday's nonpartisan special election, a re-run that cost the city about $250,000.

Credit Ryan Finnerty
Tommy Waters with supporters on election night April 13, 2019 at the Brilliant Ox in Ala Moana Center.

With 69,031 registered voters and 34,040 cast, the turnout came in at 49.31% -- high for a special election.

The campaign proved a contentious one, with negative ads and accusations clouding the campaign. 

Ozawa, a lawyer who specializes in civil litigation, first won election to the City Council in 2014, when he defeated Waters in the general election by 47 votes.

Waters, a defense attorney, served in the state House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008.

Michael Formby has been serving as the district's interim council member while the campaign played out.

Assuming the results stand, Waters will join the nine-member council and serve a four-year term.

District 4 includes Hawaii Kai, Kuliouou, Niu Valley, Aina Haina, Wailupe, Waialae-Iki, Kalani Valley, Kahala, Wilhemina Rise, Kaimuki, parts of Kapahulu, Diamond Head, Black Point, Waikiki and Ala Moana Beach Park. 

Updated: April 13, 2019, 10:44 p.m.

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