Victorino victorious in contest for mayor

Cochran happy with ‘Ohana candidate victories on council

Mike and Joycelyn Victorino pose with sons Mikey (right) and Shane as things wind down at their campaign headquarters Tuesday night in Kahului. Victorino was elected Maui County’s new mayor. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — As the latest results rolled in just before 10 p.m. Tuesday, a cheer went up at Mike Victorino’s Election Night party — the former council member had just about secured his victory as the new mayor of Maui County.

As of the third printout at 9:37 p.m., Victorino had 26,227 votes, or 54.1 percent, to Council Member Elle Cochran’s 20,956 votes, or 43.3 percent, with all but one precinct reporting.

“I think my message started to resonate out there about collaboration,” Victorino said during his party at the Kahului Shopping Center. “We’ve been so adversarial that we need to come together as a community. I think people are looking for that.”

Cochran was still holding out hope shortly before 11 p.m., pointing out that not all the votes had been tallied yet. However, she said no matter what happens, “it is what it is.”

“I always believe that things work out for a reason and the highest good, and I’m accepting of whatever happens,” Cochran said.

Elle Cochran is hugged by County Council candidate Gabe Johnson. Cochran, a council member, lost her bid for mayor. Johnson lost his race for the County Council’s Lanai residency seat. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Just as he did in the primary election, Victorino grabbed the lead early on as Cochran slowly closed the gap, cutting a 20 percentage-point deficit down to about 11 percentage points.

When the first results rolled out at around 7:15 p.m., Victorino led with 13,381 votes, or 59.1 percent, to Cochran’s 8,660 votes, or 38.3 percent. By the second printout at around 8:20 p.m., Victorino had 17,859 votes, or 58.3 percent, to Cochran’s 11,907 votes, or 38.9 percent.

“I feel very good. I still remain cautiously optimistic,” Victorino said after the second printout. “A near 6,000-vote lead doesn’t secure anything when you have only 10 of 34 precincts reporting.”

Victorino also pointed out that the mayor’s race had the lowest percentage of blank votes — 2.6 percent — of all the Maui County races.

Early during the night, Victorino said he would work together with the council, no matter who was elected.

“I’m going to try to be a lot more collaborative with them,” Victorino said. “It’s not my county. It’s our county. . . . They’re working for the people of Maui County like I am. So we all have to maybe compromise here and there and work together to make sure what we doing is for the benefit of the people, especially our working people.”

Cochran said she was pleased to see the results of the council races, especially for Tamara Paltin, who will succeed her as the West Maui council member. Five ‘Ohana Coalition-backed candidates secured seats on the nine-member council. The ‘Ohana Coalition had also supported Cochran as mayor.

“I’m so happy for the majority of the council,” Cochran said. “A lot of our ‘Ohana candidates got in. So that’s going to be a real switch up on the council level. I’m really excited about that.”

Cochran added that she would “always be here to help assist or get them all up to speed if they need that.” She wasn’t sure what she would do next if she lost, but she said she would likely continue “doing what I always did,” including working with nonprofits, focusing on forest restoration, participating in marine beach cleanups and “just fight the good fight out there.”

“I think it’ll be kind of a nice break to get away from it in a sense,” she said. “Now I can kind of pick and choose things I want to work on and assist in. There’s so much stuff that I’ve learned along the way, so much things that I can pass on to the others so they can run with that and continue the work.”

Victorino, a council member from 2007 to 2016, said his focus after the election would turn toward setting up his administration, including pulling together a committee that can help him find candidates for department directors.

“I would just thank the people of Maui County for their hospitality, their general support, and more importantly, all their concerns that has now resonated, and now I have a better understanding of what’s needed here in Maui County,” Victorino said.

During the primary, Victorino came in first with 13,556 votes, or 39.8 percent, while Cochran finished second with 10,439 votes, or 30.6 percent. Council Member Don Guzman finished third with 8,190 votes, or 24 percent.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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