Mayor Alan Arakawa took his first step toward winning a third four-year term as mayor Saturday night, easily outpacing a field of five challengers in the primary election.
Arakawa, 62, of Kahului garnered 17,093 votes, or 63.8 percent, with all 34 Maui County precincts reporting.
In comments early in the evening, Arakawa was not prepared to claim victory, saying he'd only be a "happy camper" after the night's final printout declared him victorious. However, it was clear - early on - that the race was for the second-place finisher, who'd go on to challenge the mayor in the Nov. 4 general election.
Tamara Paltin will face Mayor Alan Arakawa in the general election in November.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
And second place went to Maui County lifeguard Tamara "Tam" Paltin. She took 3,199 votes, or 11.9 percent.
Instead of hanging on election results Saturday evening, Paltin was in the middle of watching the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean" when told that her initial election results meant she'd likely advance to face Arakawa in the general election.
"Oh wow! Right on!" she said. "I'm really grateful to the family and supporters. It's a real honor to represent the people that believe in me."
Paltin said she looked forward to taking on Arakawa, one-on-one, in the campaign. She said that she was eager to kick her campaign into high gear and start talking more about issues, instead of being in a crowded field.
Arakawa said he was focused on his administration's performance, not on whom his general election opponent will be.
"It doesn't matter who our opponents are," he said. "The only thing that matters is that the public is served well."
Other mayoral candidates in order of finish were: Alana Kay with 1,314 votes, or 4.9 percent; Nelson Waikiki Jr. with 774 votes, or 2.9 percent; Orion "Ori" Kopelman with 674 votes, or 2.5 percent; and Beau Hawkes with 362 votes, or 1.4 percent.
Neldon Mamuad, founder of the MAUIWatch Facebook page, filed as a candidate for mayor in June but was disqualified. He appeared on the ballot and received 699 votes.
Paltin said that she wants to shift the mayoral campaign's focus from who the candidates are to the issues facing Maui County residents "and what kind of future they want to see."
"Getting past the primary was the first step," she said. "
Paltin said she wants to appeal to disenfranchised, nonvoters who'll see she's "totally the opposite of a politician."
She said she'll reach out for volunteers to join her campaign now that it's "gotten to a serious point."
"If people really care about the future of Maui and don't like the status quo, then let's get together, put on our grass-roots style campaign together," Paltin said.
She said she'd strive to come up with collaborative solutions such as community-based economic development. That, she said, means jobs and businesses that are needed within the community.
"It's an economic driver to fulfill a need," she said.
On the proposed genetically modified organism ballot initiative in Maui County, Paltin said she wasn't prepared to lead the charge on that issue. "At this point, it's best to just let the people decide," she said, but if she were to be elected mayor, she would "implement whatever the people decide."
Voters will cast ballots on the GMO moratorium initiative Nov. 4.
Arakawa has said that he personally does not believe GMOs are harmful.
Paltin said her main issues going forward will be county management, fiscal responsibility in budgeting and the presentation of a realistic, fair budget and capital improvement plan.
Arakawa said his focus would be to "keep trying to do the job we've been doing."
That includes improving roads and parks and fixing up small towns such as Paia and Makawao, he said.
"Our job is to continue to do that," he said. "We're not concerned about who our opponent is. We're concerned about our performance for this community. We'll keep trying to do the job we've been doing to make this community better and better."
If Arakawa wins a third four-year term, he could become Maui County's longest-serving mayor. The late Hannibal Tavares was mayor for more than 11 years, from October 1979 (after winning a special election) to Jan. 2, 1991.
Not since re-electing Linda Lingle in 1994 have Maui County voters returned a mayor to a second consecutive four-year term in office.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.