HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Voters in Kaua’i County are gearing up to elect a new mayor. Incumbent Derek Kawakami is nearing the end of his first term and is challenged by three political newcomers.
They have a wide range of views on a number of issues, but far less experience in politics.
Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore thinks it could be an easy win for the incumbent.
“He’s a popular mayor, he’s had a lot of success dealing with COVID, he’s a charismatic politician — and he doesn’t have a lot of strong opponents,” Moore said. “By that I mean people who are experienced policy makers who hold office.”
Those opponents include 61-year-old Mitch McPeek, 71-year-old Megeso William-Denis and 47-year-old Michael Roven Poai.
McPeek moved to Kauai from California in the ’80s. He thinks kids shouldn’t have to wear masks, and the government has been tough on its COVID response. He claims that individual rights have been taken away.
“When I filled out my papers, I looked around and no one stood up, no one stood up against what is happening right now. Nobody is defending freedoms, nobody is defending rights , so I applied,” McPeek said.
He added that he was unhappy with Kawakami’s leadership at the height of the pandemic.
“The guy completely failed. Just to be perfectly honest with you. He failed. He locked us in,” McPeek said. “The guy completely denied every one of our rights.”
Meanwhile, former Megeso business leader William-Denis also supports an individual’s right to choose and is passionate about making Kaua’i a place of sustainability. It aims to produce more food locally and wants to develop renewable energy sources.
“These issues are very important to me when it comes to our natural resources and our own freedoms. So it’s time to enter the fray, get my opinion, my life experiences, and show how I can benefit from a new vision, the growth of Kaua’i as a sustainable local community,” said William Denis.
And the third challenger is Kapa’a resident Michael Roven Poai. He worked for the county for 24 years. His priorities include finding a solution to the island’s landfill problems and providing more showers to homeless communities.
“It’s not the easiest job in the world, but as I promised people honesty. And the first thing is to put the right administration in there so that we can bring Kaua’i back to the old school. Simple, basic, so we can get the job done,” Poai said.
Kawakami welcomes the challengers and acknowledges their desire to improve the island for the residents.
He looks back on his first term and considers communication during COVID a victory. He also praises his team’s ability to move infrastructure projects forward while achieving the creation of affordable housing options and transitional housing services.
“When I say a mayor’s job is never done, it really is never done. And that is why we have worked hard to focus our energy, effort, capital and resources on infrastructure and quality of life issues and job creation,” Kawakami said.
He said he would continue to focus on infrastructure if re-elected. He is also leading the pack in fundraising.
Moore praises him as an effective communicator, which will play to his strength in getting his message across to voters.
“If you are a politician who has real communication skills, it really benefits you. And I think he’s one of the few politicians, actually in Hawaii, I would say, who really is a great communicator. We don’t have much and Mayor Kawakami really stands out in that regard.
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