Honolulu’s Next Mayor May Be a Republican

Posted: Aug 15, 2016 12:50 PM

Incumbent mayor Kirk Caldwell was able to make a first place finish in Honolulu’s mayoral election, but came short in receiving the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff election in November. Nipping at his heels with less than a percentage point behind was former GOP congressman and city councilman Charles Djou.

With over 166,000 votes cast in Hawaii’s capital, Democrat Caldwell took 44.6 percent to Djou’s 43.7 percent. Honolulu’s election is technically non-partisan and contestants can avoid a general election runoff if they surpass the 50 percent threshold. For a city that is packed with liberal voters, it is intriguing Caldwell was not able to meet that mark.

Mayor Caldwell has faced mounting criticism over Honolulu’s rail project now costing billions more than originally estimated. Djou has opposed increased taxes to fund the difference.

Charles Djou, an Asian-American and major in the United States Army Reserve, served a short stint as a congressman after winning a 2010 special election upset– the first Republican to represent Hawaii’s first district in 20 years. He was subsequently defeated during the 2010 general election. Djou also served as a city councilman in Honolulu from 2003 to 2010.

Looking at the partisan makeup of Hawaii, it’s no surprise Djou wasn’t able to hold on to his congressional seat or why he has a tough hill to climb if he wishes to become Honolulu’s next mayor. The partisan voting index of Hawaii’s first district (which encompasses Honolulu) is D+ 18, one of the most partisan in the nation. Hawaii’s legislature is essentially under one party rule – their Senate has one elected Republican (out of 25). Their House chamber isn’t much better with seven Republicans in a 51 member body.

Needless to say, Hawaii isn’t the friendliest place for Republicans seeking elected office.

However, Djou may be protected by the fact Honolulu’s mayoral election is nonpartisan. The current mayor’s railway woes are seeming to create a backlash with voters. Both of them will be competing for the 9-percent support the third place candidate received.

If elected, Charles Djou would be the first Republican mayor of Honolulu since the Reagan years.