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Recount confirms victory for Cantere over Halperin

Republican Cantere will face Democrat Terez Amato in November

Shekinah Cantere (in photo), who was trailing Netra Halperin in the Republican primary for House District 11, vaulted into the lead by 21 votes, which was confirmed by a mandatory recount on Monday.

A recount on Monday morning solidified Shekinah Cantere’s 21-vote win over Netra Halperin in the Republican primary for South Maui’s House District 11, setting her up to face Democratic nominee Terez Amato in November.

The Maui County Clerk’s Office confirmed Cantere’s 678 votes to Halperin’s 657 votes after results released Sunday morning were close enough to prompt a mandatory recount.

“I felt great watching them do the process,” Cantere said Monday after the recount. “I didn’t think the results would change because the county is doing a great job processing our mail-in ballots. … They have a lot of checks and balances. It gives me hope that there’s no election fraud, at least for Maui County.”

Cantere said she felt like “an underdog” in the race since Halperin has run before and “her name is more well known than mine in the political world.” However, she hoped her local ties would play in her favor going forward.

“I’m going to hope that growing up here gives me a good advantage, and people know me by my personality and who I am and what I’ve done in the community,” she said.

Netra Halperin

The number of blank votes, 251, was greater than the margin between the two candidates. Halperin, who’d been leading the race by 44 votes late Saturday evening, said Monday that the results were “disappointing.”

“I knocked on 900 doors, and so you know, I was hoping that that would put me across the finish line, but obviously my opponent had a network of people, and that’s life in politics, and I wish her the best. She’s a lovely person,” Halperin said. “I really enjoyed meeting all the people that I talked to, going door to door, all the people of Kihei that gave me their time, so I really appreciate that.”

Halperin ran for the same seat as a Democrat in the 2010 and 2012 primaries. When asked if she thought switching parties this time impacted her chances, Halperin recalled how one person she knows told her that “I can’t vote for you because you’re running as a Republican.”

“It was a difficult decision to run as a Republican, but I just felt that certain issues, like the medical freedom issue, the Democrats have zero tolerance of that, so I had to run as a Republican because of that one issue,” she said. “My opponent — this was the primary, so obviously she was a Republican also — but again, she grew up here, and I think that just gives you a broader base of people who know you.”

Cantere will run in the general election against Amato, who won the Democratic primary with 2,709 votes, or 61.2 percent, to Randal Mahiai Jr.’s 966 votes, or 21.8 percent. There were 655 blank votes.

“With unity the people have clearly said, no more to corruption, no more to corporate control and yes to human rights and Democratic values,” Amato said in an email statement on Monday. “I am #WorkingForThePeople and will honor their clear mandate for compassion and change.”

When asked about the close finish in her future opponent’s race, Amato said, “Sadly many Republican politicians do not value our election process.”

“In these tumultuous times, to align with the Republican party of Hawai’i is to align with the oppression and dehumanization of women,” Amato said. “A Republican vote is a vote to strip us of our rights of expression, to side with fear and division, instead of hope and prosperity for the people.”

Cantere acknowledged the challenge of running as Republican, saying “I know Hawaii’s a Democrat state,” but hoped people wouldn’t vote just based on party.

“I’m hoping that people that know me and people that are going to learn about me are going to look past, ‘oh, she filed Republican, oh she filed Democrat,’ and look at really the policies and the person, what they’ve done, what they’re doing,” Cantere said, adding that she plans to advocate for full-time Hawaiian studies programs in public schools and a homeless shelter in Kihei.

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

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