Guzman launches bid for mayor
WAILUKU — Maui County Council Member Don Guzman announced his candidacy for mayor Thursday evening, packing in an enthusiastic crowd of more than 700 supporters at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.
“It’s a really big step,” Guzman said of running for mayor, while taking a break from shaking hands and hugging supporters.
Inspired by turmoil between County Council members and the Mayor’s Office, he said he would strive as mayor to improve the working relationship between the county’s executive and legislative branches.
“What would that be like?” he asked. “I can serve as a bridge.”
And, he said, he wants to restore the public’s trust in the Mayor’s Office.
“I feel that I can be that bridge, and we can work together,” he said. “It all starts with building trust with the Mayor’s Office. There’s a lack of trust there.”
In a prepared statement, he said: “Government needs to restore trust and serving as mayor should be absent of arrogance . . . It is the mayor’s duty to consider all sides, consult with knowledgeable people and build coalitions to achieve goals.”
“I’m about making sure things are fair,” Guzman said, maintaining that he’s an advocate for “transparent and efficient government.”
Guzman said he thinks he’ll be the best candidate for mayor because he has a deep understanding of how the county administration operates.
“I’m able to connect the dots better, and I have a better understanding of concepts,” he said.
In his written statement, he said that his leadership could bring the “right balance” for the community in addressing the county’s affordable housing crisis and its infrastructure needs while preserving its natural resources and cultural heritage.
“Prioritizing the community plans with valuable public input and deliberation is a must,” he said.
Mayor Alan Arakawa will complete his second consecutive term as mayor next year and is ineligible to seek a third consecutive term. (He also served as mayor from 2002 to
2006.) Arakawa’s departure leaves the mayor’s seat open in the 2018 election, drawing interest from candidates such as Guzman, Maui County Council Member Elle Cochran and former Council Member Mike Victorino.
In April, Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui said that he was weighing a campaign for the Maui County Mayor’s Office, but he could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Cochran attended Guzman’s birthday fundraising event Thursdsay, saying she has a friendly rivalry with him.
“We need to all support each other,” she said.
But she confirmed that she’s running for mayor and launched her campaign website Thursday.
Cochran and Guzman hold the council’s West Maui and Kahului residency seats, respectively. And, in the 2016 general election, they ran as members of the reform-minded ‘Ohana Coalition and received 60.4 percent and 58.1 percent of the vote in their races. Other council candidates won with voter approval of 43 to nearly 49 percent.
Cochran said she’s heard pundits predict that either she or Guzman would face Tsutsui in the mayor’s race, if Tsutsui resigns as lieutenant governor to run.
Cochran said she’s concerned that she and Guzman would split the vote the same base of voters whose top issues include the environment and Native Hawaiian issues. She said she’s also been a strong advocate of recycling and sustainability.
Guzman said he thinks he has a broader base of voter support. He said he’s been backed by environmentalists, developers and labor unions.
He said he’s analytical, does his homework and finds a middle ground.
That way, “we can start to develop collaborations,” he said. “We can start working together.”
Victorino also attended Guzman’s fundraiser. In the past, he has made it no secret that he has intended to run for mayor.
But, “right now I’m leaving all my options open,” he said. Those include seeking the Central Maui 8th House District seat held by Democratic Rep. Joe Souki, who was unseated as speaker at the end of this year’s legislative session. Victorino said he’d only consider running for Souki’s seat if the longtime lawmaker were to retire.
Or, he said he might run for his former Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu council seat, won last year by Council Member Alika Atay, another ‘Ohana Coalition-backed candidate.
Victorino said he would likely not commit to running for an office until mid-February.
Candidates may begin pulling nomination papers Feb. 1. The deadline to declare as a candidate is June 5.
The primary election is set for Aug. 11, and the general election will be held Nov. 6, 2018.
Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission records submitted in July show Guzman had a campaign war chest of $20,682 while Victorino had $4,929 and Cochran had a deficit of $58,995. Tsutsui reported a surplus of $237,466.
Frequent Maui News letter writer Ori Kopelman has said that he plans to run for mayor again in 2018 in pursuit of his dream of “Mauitopia.” In September 2014, he reported a campaign fund balance of zero. There have been no recent filings by Kopelman.
Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.
Maui County Council Member Don Guzman greets Wailuku resident Nathaniel Layaoen on Thursday evening at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku. Guzman announced his candidacy for mayor during the fundraiser celebrating his 48th birthday. Guzman holds the council’s Kahului residency seat and is in his third two-year term.
Maui County Council Member Don Guzman awaits a blessing during his campaign fundraiser Thursday evening, standing with son Andrew (from left), 10; wife Dr. Rose Guzman and son Nealon, 11. Not pictured is daughter Reese, 16.