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EDITORIAL: They “Huli’ed” the system- small kine.

Photo: County of Maui
It took me awhile to digest the local election results of this 2016 General Election. Partly because of the first surprise that happened on the national stage: Donald Trump? Yes, the first signs of a national shift in politics but with the electoral college in place, a vote for president in Hawaii is regardless a vote for a Democrat. In our state’s legislature, the only Republican in the Senate got ousted creating the nation’s only all-blue Senate. But that’s not where all the excitement was. The excitement was at the local level, right here in our own backyard.

One of the greatest political experiments I’ve ever seen was the movement of #hulithesystem. I’m not going to get deep into the actual politics, but I will tell you- it worked. Small kine, but it worked.

HULI”: Definition: rotate; flip over; turn Often used with “huli huli chicken,” a style of chicken preparation done by rotating or flipping chicken over an open flame.

The movement put up an entire slate to run against the whole sitting County Council with the exception of two incumbents: Elle Cochran and Don Guzman. Just a side note, I use the term “small kine” because the movement didn’t gain enough seats for a majority on the Council, but that does not detract from the astonishing accomplishments seen on November 8th- technically November 9th at 1AM.

In South Maui, the power of incumbency was breached by Kelly King against Don Couch. A rare feat to do in county politics when battling incumbent name recognition and reach. The most surprising, in my opinion, was the campaign of Alika Atay. I think he has earned license to use former President Bill Clinton’s name as, “The Comeback Kid” because he was behind in the Primary, and behind in all initial printouts in the General, but with the recounting of the votes in Haiku he won, making for a dramatic finish.

The top vote getters were, of course, the incumbents who also were part of the movement’s slate:
Elle Cochran: 31, 968
Don Guzman: 30,762

The movement was close to making a complete “Huli” but fell short in the end.

The closest race was Upcountry with a two point spread or 1,052 votes to make the difference for a full HULI (five members from the slate on the council) if Napua Greig-Nakasone had been one of the winners.

Power Factors

The movement’s voting block was strong but not united in some districts. If I had to measure the strength of the movement, I’ll take the average of the slate’s losses:
Sinenci + Furtado + Grieg-Nakasone + Johnson + Rawlins-Fernandez= 99,311
Power Factor: 19,862

The power factor tells me that at minimum the movement could put close to 19,000 votes on the board for its new candidates. That’s nothing to laugh at, in fact it’s pretty impressive. It’s enough to give incumbents, pause, or it should. What seems to be the ousting of Don Guzman from the Vice-Chairmanship sets a radical tone for the “new” majority. In our society, majority rules and that’s the way it goes sometimes. Inclusion is not always mandatory. Perhaps Guzman will pick up a chairmanship of one of the as yet unassigned committees, which would be a shift of a different kind.

The Blanks

With most races, in single digit striking distance from their opponents thousands of people left portions of the ballot blank in some areas. In the council races, the average was 8,400. More than 8,000 people passed on voting on races while having the ballot right in front of them. Millennials would call this a WTF. The reasons vary and can never be truly determined: protest vote, not familiar with either candidate, or mere geography (I don’t live there so no need). If the “blank’ers” had cast a vote for a candidate instead, we might have seen the whole system HULI. We will never know.


The next election in 2018 could see more of a paradigm shift in the political landscape. Rep. Kaniela Ing’s new voting law will be in effect, allowing same-day voter registration at the polls. An open governor and mayoral race will add to the excitement; but I think 2016 sent a powerful message: When a community mobilizes they can make a difference and they can win. We’ve seen a better voter turnout on Maui with a 56.4%. With that percentage though, my teacher in school would still have given me an “F.” We still have lots of room for improvement in Maui County.

To help raise your spirits after this election, here’s my favorite “Huli” song, the best one I could find on YouTube. Enjoy!



About Neldon "AZD" Mamuad

Neldon "AZD" Mamuad
Neldon "AZD" Mamuad is a pioneering social media entrepreneur who created MAUIWatch to solve the problem of breaking news on Maui. He has a 10-year pedigree running successful broadcast properties on Maui. He created KJMD-FM (Da Jam 98.3) in 2002 and hosted the widely popular "Big Phat Morning Show". Neldon is a local politco, event technologist, and involved with various community organizations. He was formerly Chairman of the Maui County Liquor Control Commission in 2014.

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