Yoichi Masuzoe, a former health minister backed by Japan’s ruling party, won a decisive victory in Tokyo’s closely-watched gubernatorial race—one where the nuclear issue loomed large.

Masuzoe, who ran as an independent but was endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, defeated two anti-nuclear opponents who had promised to end the use of atomic energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

Masuzoe veered away from the nuclear debate, saying it should not be Tokyo’s central concern.

“I want to make Tokyo the number one city of the world, in areas including disaster prevention, welfare and the economy,” Masuzoe told reporters.

“And above all, I will make the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games successful.”

Masuzoe, a former television personality and one-time cabinet minister, has big shoes to fill following the resignation of Naoki Inose who was credited for bringing the Olympics to Tokyo.

He will have to jump right into the preparations to make up for lost time. Masuzoe will join a panel to coordinate planning and quickly fill key positions on the preparatory committee. His immediate challenge will be to draw up basic guidelines for the games by mid-January 2005. The native of Kitakyushu is known as tough—but highly capable—politician.

Yoshiro Mori, President of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, lauded Masuzoe’s victory as “excellent news”.

“As the successful delivery of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games was one of his main campaign objectives, I am especially happy to learn that Mr. Masuzoe has been elected as the new Governor of Tokyo,” Mori, who was in Sochi for the Winter Games, said in a statement.

The committee “is looking forward to working closely with Governor Masuzoe” to make the summer games “the best Olympics ever.”

National broadcaster NHK exit polls gave Masuzoe about 30% of the vote. Hosokawa and Kenji Utsunomiya received about 20% each, suggesting that if the anti-nuclear vote had been united, a win by either might have been possible.

Voter turnout was weak at just 34 percent because of a snowstorm that dumped more than 9 inches of snow in Tokyo.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image of Masuzoe, campaigning last month in Tokyo: foxnews.com