WAILUKU - Mayor Charmaine Tavares managed to edge out former Mayor Alan Arakawa by 268 votes for a first-place finish in Saturday's primary election.
And, precinct results show, she did it on the strength of winning Central Maui precincts, with strong absentee and mail-in vote totals and by not losing by big numbers in the two dozen precincts she didn't win.
Overall, Tavares took 7,307 votes, or 25.4 percent, while Ara-kawa garnered 7,039 votes, or 24.4 percent. They advance to the Nov. 2 general election.
In 2006, Tavares denied Ara-kawa a second four-year term. November's election sets up a rematch of the political rivals.
On Saturday, retired electrical contractor Randy Piltz took third place with 5,602 votes, or 19.4 percent; followed by planning consultant Chris Hart with 3,035 ballots, or 10.5 percent; Council Member Sol Kaho'ohalahala with 2,912 votes, or 10.1 percent; and small business owner Marc Hodges with 1,761 votes, or 6.1 percent. The remaining five candidates for mayor combined for only 1.5 percent of the vote.
Out of 39 Maui County precincts, Tavares came out on top in 11, most of those in Central Maui and most by narrowly beating Arakawa and Piltz.
Tavares said she had been in meetings Sunday and had not had a chance to see the precinct voting totals, but she said her campaign will have to work to counter the anti-incumbent sentiment seen across the country because of economic frustrations.
She also said her campaign will soon begin working to "dispel some rumors" about her alleged anti-business record. She said during the next six weeks she will work to spread her message of what she would like to do in a second term, especially concerning renewable energy and water.
The other two leading candidates could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Tavares grabbed the Wailuku Elementary precinct with a 65 vote margin over Arakawa and a 36 vote cushion over Piltz. She won the Iao School precinct by 33 votes over Arakawa and 28 over Piltz. She took the Baldwin High School polling place by 24 votes over Arakawa and 32 over Piltz. One of her more narrow Central Maui victories came at Waihee Elementary where she beat Arakawa by only seven votes and Piltz by two.
But the incumbent mayor's biggest vote harvests came not at precincts on primary election day but from absentee walk-in and mail-in votes. Mail-in voters in the 8th House District, which includes Kahakuloa, Wailuku and Waikapu, gave Tavares a 284 vote advantage over Arakawa and a 238 vote cushion over Piltz. Similarly, in the 9th House District, which includes a portion of Wailuku, Kahului and Lower Paia, Tavares received 226 more mail-in votes than Arakawa and 359 more than Piltz.
Tavares' precinct wins were not limited to Central Maui. She also took the most votes on Lanai, getting a 112 vote advantage over Arakawa there and 164 more votes than Piltz. (Kaho'ohalahala, who holds the council's Lanai residency seat, finished in fourth place there with 44 votes, or 11.1 percent of the vote.)
Arakawa won 23 precincts and tied for first in one with Piltz. Arakawa had first-place finishes at more than twice as many polling stations as Tavares. But Arakawa beat Tavares by 50 or fewer votes at 16 precincts, by 51 to 80 votes at five precincts and by 100 or more votes at only two precincts.
Arakawa's biggest margin of victory over Tavares came at the Haiku Community Center where he outpaced her by 141 votes and Piltz by 102. At Kamalii Elementary School in Kihei, Arakawa beat Tavares by 113 votes and Piltz by 42.
In general, Arakawa fared best in West and South Maui polling places.
Piltz took the most votes in three precincts - all of them Upcountry - at Eddie Tam Memorial Center, Kula Community Center and Kula Elementary School. But his highest winning margin over either Tavares or Arakawa was only 59 votes, at the Kula Community Center.
Hart, the planning consultant and former Department of Planning director, came out on top in one precinct, at Kilohana Community Center on Molokai, where he beat Tavares by six votes and Arakawa by 14.
Arakawa and Piltz tied for the top spot at the Kihei Community Center, each getting 123 votes while Tavares had 94.
In other county races, Elle Cochran and Alan Fukuyama finished in first and second place, respectively, in the race for the council's West Maui residency seat. Cochran took 7,980 votes, or 27.7 percent, while Fukuyama had 5,693 votes, or 19.8 percent.
The top two candidates in council races advance to the general election.
In the South Maui council race, Don Couch held on to an early lead to maintain a first-place finish over runner-up incumbent Council Member Wayne Nishiki. Couch grabbed 11,524 votes, or 40 percent, and Nishiki took 10,686 votes, or 37.1 percent.
Former state legislator Mike White came out on top of the race for the council's Makawao-Haiku-Paia seat, taking 10,150 votes, or 35.2 percent, followed by runner-up Kai Nishiki with 6,805 votes, or 23.6 percent.
State election results continued to show Maui County offices as having 39 of 40 precincts reporting. State and county elections officials were not available for comment Sunday.
Mahina Martin, Maui County spokeswoman, said the 40th precinct is at Kalaupapa, the former settlement for Hansen's disease patients. Kalaupapa is part of the state's Kalawao County, a separate county from Maui County where residents don't vote in county races, although they do vote in state and federal contests.
Out of 84,386 registered voters, 28,839, or 34.2 percent, cast ballots in the primary election.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.