HONOLULU - Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, who came out of retirement to mount an insurgent campaign for Honolulu mayor so he could stop the city's rail project, will face former Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell in a runoff election.
Cayetano had nearly 45 percent of the ballots cast in Saturday's primary election with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Caldwell had more than 29 percent of the vote while incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle came in third with 23 percent.
"This campaign is not about rail, this campaign is bigger than that. It's about power, it's about giving the people a voice as required in any democracy. This is what it's all about," Cayetano told cheering supporters at campaign headquarters.
"They may have all of the unions, and the big business people, all of the special interests, but we got you," he said.
The election turned into a referendum on the city's planned $5 billion rail line when Cayetano entered the race to oppose its construction. Caldwell and Carlisle both supported the project.
Caldwell said he would talk about all issues affecting residents - like water, sewers, and potholes - and not just the rail project during his campaign for the general election.
"In the past two weeks, I could really feel the momentum building. We closed really strong. And I was very hopeful we'd show a positive result and we have," Caldwell said in an interview.
Carlisle said he didn't mount the campaign he needed to win. But he vowed to keep rail going during his remaining months in office.
"As mayor for the next four months, I'm going to do everything I can to get rail far enough along so that it cannot possibly be stopped," he said in an interview.
The runoff between Cayetano and Caldwell will be held during the Nov. 6 general election because no candidate secured more than 50 percent of the vote.
On the Big Island, Mayor Billy Kenoi will face his former boss, ex-Mayor Harry Kim, in a runoff.
Public opinion on rail has been mixed in the lead up to the hard-fought race.
A poll last month that Ward Research Inc. conducted for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now showed 50 percent of Oahu residents want to stop the rail project. Forty-four percent believe work should continue on the project.
Ricky Okano, a 44-year-old waiter who cast his ballot in Honolulu's Makiki neighborhood, said he was happy with the city's bus system and didn't think rail was necessary.
"We're pumping way too much into this rail thing," Okano said after voting for Cayetano. "Besides I like the way it is right now. It's going to destroy our skyline, and I'm not for that."
Caldwell voter and private school teacher Alan Yeh said the city would regret it in the long run if it didn't build the transit system now.
"If you don't act now, there won't be another chance to do something bold and big about traffic," the 32-year-old said.