Mayor Alan Arakawa made it official Tuesday night: He's running for re-election next fall.
And he learned that a major obstacle to that goal has been cleared.
After the mayor made his announcement before more than a hundred supporters in the Lihikai Elementary School cafeteria in Kahului, Council Member Mike Victorino, who had been mulling a challenge to Arakawa, congratulated the mayor and then announced that he was running for re-election himself - for his council seat.
Mayor Alan Arakawa, with his wife, Ann, at his side, announced his intention to seek re-election next fall. His announcement was made in the Lihikai School Cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon.
"That's my way of saying, 'Mr. Mayor, thank you. I give you this one, I'll give you this one,' " Victorino said Tuesday evening by phone.
It was a spontaneous announcement, one that he had to inform his supporters of after the gathering.
"To be honest with you, it was a spur of the moment (decision). . . . Something told me this was the right time," he said, adding that he does these spontaneous announcements from time to time.
"It's always been for the right reason," he added.
Victorino said that "I truly have a good chance of winning" a race against Arakawa but concluded that this is not the time for a divisive, hard fought campaign.
With the government shutdown into its third week and the debt ceiling looming in Washington, D.C., the fragile economy needs a united front, he said. He said he chose to forgo a run for mayor "not out of fear but out of respect for the people of Maui County,"
"Though we don't agree all the time, I think you are doing what I consider a good job for the people of Maui County," Victorino told Arakawa's supporters.
He said that he and Arakawa share many of the same constituents and the same passion, though differing on some things.
"I have come to respect the man," he said.
Victorino, who will face Joe Blackburn in a rematch of the last election, hopes Maui County voters will support him once again. If elected to another two-year term for the council's Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency seat, he will be term-limited.
Arakawa, too, will be facing term limits if elected to another four-year term. He actually is seeking his third term as mayor. He won his first four-year term in 2002, defeating incumbent Mayor James "Kimo" Apana. Four years later, he was defeated by Council Member Charmaine Tavares.
Arakawa, a former council member himself, became mayor once again, defeating Tavares in 2010. If victorious next fall, he would be the first incumbent mayor to win re-election since Linda Lingle, who served from 1991-1999.
During his announcement with his wife, Ann, at his side, Arakawa touted how far Maui County has come under his administration and how much farther it could go.
"This community has worked too hard for too long to let our economy slip back into recession again," he said. "Already this (government) shutdown has affected our state government and if this lasts for too much longer, some county services, such as housing assistance, will also be affected."
He called the shutdown "just another challenge" to overcome "with determination, perseverance and hard work."
The mayor cited some of his first-term accomplishments, including improving water reliability for Upcountry, doubling the number of roads being repaired, working to improve the permitting process and bringing back events such as Halloween on Front Street and Friday town parties.
A coffee and beef stew meal was provided by the Friends of Alan Arakawa campaign.
Arakawa plans to hold a series of "coffee shop conversations" around the county next year. He said residents may bring their issues and concerns to him at these meetings. The meeting schedule will be released in December.
For more information about the Arakawa campaign, contact campaign Chairperson Lynn Araki-Regan at 280-1299.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.