Archive for August 2010

Mufi and Neil make their case

August 30, 2010

Some quick impressions of the Mufi Hannemann/Neil Abercrombie debate:

  • The “showdown” hype, razzmatazz and cheering that Hawaii News Now favors in its debates is distracting and creates an annoying WWE atmosphere. Allowing booing and jeering by partisans in the audience without trying to control it until it was too late was unconscionable.
  • Hannemann’s delivery was smoother in constantly coming back to his themes of Hawai‘i values, collaboration and managerial experience. His gigs delivering extemporaneous patter on the radio clearly paid off. Abercrombie started off stiff, choppy and at times fumbling for notes in depicting himself as an agent of change and a fighter for the little guy, but he seemed to find more of a groove after the break.
  • The furor over Hannemann’s negative “Compare & Decide” ad is having a clear impact on the campaign. Both brought their indoor voices and a determination to play nice. The questions they asked each other and some of the answers were pointed, but they actually threw some compliments each others’ way and the seething hostility we’ve seen in the past wasn’t as evident.
  • Hannemann’s measured tone had some success in defanging himself after Ed Case’s description of him as a bully and “the most dangerous politician in a generation,” but it was partly undone by his supporters’ rude heckling of Abercrombie. Hannemann could have scored points by telling them to cool it when the moderators didn’t. Hannemann’s careful modulation gave Abercrombie an opening to outdo him on passion.
  • I’m always struck by how poorly candidates do when given a chance to directly question opponents. The question is usually more of a speech that often leaves the other guy an easy out or even a chance to turn the tables. With all the lawyers and ex-journalists these candidates have on staff, you’d think somebody could instruct them on how to build a Mike Wallace-style “gotcha” that nails the opposition.

Bottom line: Both candidates succeeded in underscoring their campaign themes for undecided voters, but there was little new ground broken, no defining moments and certainly no knockout punches.

Governor’s race goes to church

August 29, 2010

Republican Chairman Jonah Ka’auwai has launched an aggressive push to counter Mufi Hannemann’s courtship of Christian conservatives who support Republican James “Duke” Aiona.

In a lengthy message to the Hawai’i Christian Coalition, endorsed by coalition state chairman Garret Hashimoto, Ka’auwai accused the Hannemann campaign of acting “unethically, immorally, and far below reproach” in its efforts to get church-goers to pull Democratic ballots in the primary and support Hannemann over Neil Abercrombie.

The message is full of biblical references and exposes the strong religious undercurrent of the governor’s race that has received little public attention as Aiona and Hannemann battle for the Christian vote. The Ka’auwai message is being well-circulated online and could spotlight the issue for a broader audience. (You can read the full message here.)

Ka’auwai’s message, addressed to “Pastors and Brothers/Sisters in Jesus Christ,” accused Hannemann and his surrogates of making appearances in churches to persuade worshippers “that Christians should vote in September 18th’s primary election on the Democrat ballot for Mufi Hannemann to retard the chances of a Neil Abercrombie win rather than supporting Duke Aiona through both the primary and general elections.”

“For the Body of Christ to think Duke Aiona will lose to either Neil Abercrombie or Mufi Hannemann in the general election is not a church operating in FAITH but operating in FEAR,” Ka’auwai wrote. “The Hannemann campaign’s strategy is a trap of lies and baited deception and is being fueled by that very FEAR! DO NOT BE DECEIVED!!!”

Other excerpts:

When Ken Wong (of the Hannemann campaign committee) or Mufi approach or call you, you must probe, uncover their plans of conquest that have no righteous intent and rebuke them for trying to use your church as a platform for their deception and your personal influence to further unrighteousness.

Duke will win because the Church has been behind him the entire time operating in the POWER and the AUTHORITY of the NAME OF JESUS! We are the HEAD and not the tail; we are the VICTORS not the victims! If Duke Aiona does not win it will be the burden of the Body of Christ to bear so rather than preparing to have to deal with either Mufi or Neil winning the Church, we should be preparing for Duke to WIN. Neither Mufi Hannemann nor Neil Abercrombie is righteous and a vote for either in the primary or general election is succumbing to fear and advancing unrighteousness!


Galatians 5:22 tells us the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Has anyone seen that kind of fruit through Mufi Hannemann? Ask Ken why he endorses a man whose fruit shows no signs of righteousness or being controlled by the Holy Spirit. At many levels, Mufi is worse than Neil.


Duke Aiona’s Campaign for Governor is the Body of Christ’s opportunity to operate in the AUTHORITY and to be proactive. The Primary Election is the first step to bringing back a righteous leader to the highest office in this State which has not been seen since Queen Lili’uokalani. Over 100 years ago! With more than 400,000 Christians in the State of Hawaii, WE are responsible no matter what the outcome of Duke’s race because we have been given the POWER and the AUTHORITY in the NAME OF JESUS!!!!

Ka’auwai makes an exception to his warnings against crossovers in House District 33, where he urges Christian Republicans to take Democratic ballots and vote for civil unions opponent Gary Okino against Rep. Blake Oshiro, the author of HB 444.

UPDATE: Duke Aiona issued the following statement:

“While faith is a central part of my life, I’m running for Governor to serve all the people of Hawai‘i – regardless of their religion.

“The goal of our grassroots campaign is to connect with every citizen in every community of this great state, and Chairman Ka‘auwai’s personal comments are seen by many as divisive.

“Our campaign is focused on families, friends and neighbors of all backgrounds, and we’re going to continue to reach out to all the citizens of Hawai‘i.”

I also asked Jonah Ka’auwai for clarification of what he meant when he said Aiona would be Hawai’i’s first “righteous leader” since Lili’uokalani. He sent this response:

“This letter was sent out as a private email to Christian Pastors not intended for publication. Upon reflection, I can see that some of my words carry implications which I did not intend. I did not intend to make a broad-brush judgment about all of Hawaii’s Governors, Republican or Democrat.”

flASHback alert

August 28, 2010

My flASHback column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “2010 campaign’s characters spice up political potpourri.”

Carlisle and GOP agree: He’s not a Republican

August 27, 2010

There’s a strange feud going on between the Hawaii Republican Party and mayoral candidate Peter Carlisle, a former Republican who quit the party when he began looking at the nonpartisan race for mayor.

After Carlisle made passing reference in a Midweek interview to a supposed GOP poll that showed him well ahead of Kirk Caldwell and Panos Prevedouros, Republican executive director Dylan Nonaka issued a harsh statement that there was no such poll, that Carlisle could have made up the numbers and that Prevedouros was the only Republican candidate.

(A subsequent Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll showed Carlisle with an even bigger lead than he claimed in Midweek.)

When Carlisle diminished his previous ties to the Republicans in a TV interview, it was party chairman Jonah Ka’auwai’s turn to fulminate, noting that the former prosecutor chaired two GOP conventions and emceed a major fundraiser.

Ka’auwai griped that Carlisle “never believed in the principals of our party, especially the principal of fiscal accountability.”

There’s no question that Carlisle was involved with the GOP for a couple of years and flirted with running for Congress under the party’s banner, and that there were sore feelings when he ditched the party after deciding to run for the nonpartisan office of mayor.

But you have to question the GOP’s judgment in working so hard to turn a race voters have said they want to be nonpartisan into a partisan contest — especially when its candidate is running a distant third in the polls.

You’d think the Republicans would have more important priorities, like trying to keep the governorship and congressional seat they hold or improving their pathetic numbers in the Legislature.

Abercrombie enters mailer wars

August 26, 2010

Neil Abercrombie’s latest campaign mailer landed in the box yesterday and it couldn’t be more different from opponent Mufi Hannemann’s controversial “Compare and Decide” shot at Abercrombie’s mainland birth, haole wife, UH degrees and record in Congress.

Abercrombie’s piece makes no mention of his opponent. It features a picture of him in a nice suit with well-trimmed hair and beard, seeking to neutralize opposition attempts to paint him as an anarchistic hippie from his younger appearance.

It promises a leadership style based on respect for others, courage, commitment and common values and briefly highlights his policy proposals for energy, agriculture, education and government transparency.

Abercrombie ends by politely asking residents for their votes and thanking them for their consideration.

It’s the kind of vanilla effort that normally wouldn’t get much attention except for the earlier Hannemann piece; in that context, it reads like an Abercrombie salvo asking voters to “compare and decide” on personal style.

Many political consultants favor negative ads because they think they deliver more votes. This race could shape up as an interesting test of that.

Inouye vs. Case — George Lucas style

August 25, 2010

If coherence is lacking in Hawai’i politics, it’s more than made up for with entertaining theatrics. The latest little drama:


Hawai’i U.S. Rep. Ed Case runs against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka without the blessing of senior Sen. Daniel Inouye and is trounced after a furious Inouye rallies the state’s Democratic establishment against him.


Case tries to return to Congress by running for the House seat that Neil Abercrombie vacates to run for governor, and a vengeful Inouye endorses state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa against him and harshly attacks Case in what the Honolulu Advertiser describes as “unusually personal terms.” Basically, Inouye says Case represents maverick politics, can’t be trusted and is “not my kind of guy.”


The Democrats lose the House seat to Republican Charles Djou in the special election to finish Abercrombie’s term, and Case dramatically announces at the state Democratic Convention that he’ll drop out of the primary election to give Hanabusa a clear shot at Djou in the general. Inouye pronounces Case a good Democrat.


Case opposes Inouye’s favored candidates for governor and Honolulu mayor, Mufi Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell, in unusually personal terms, basically saying they represent “machine” politics that must end, can’t be trusted and aren’t his kind of guys. (For those rusty at reading between the lines, Case sees Inouye sitting atop the machine.)


Inouye, missing the ironic similarity between Case’s attack on Hannemann and Caldwell and his own earlier screed against Case, accuses Case of “mean spirited comments and negative statements” against good Democrats that “walk a very fine line between ‘fair’ and ‘foul.’ ”

I applaud Inouye’s efforts to clean up this election, but the referee has to honor the rules more than anyone else on the field.


My column in today’s Star-Advertiser: “Ill-timed negative ad a step backward for Hannemann.”

Caldwell, Hannemann smarting from Kalihi tax flap

August 24, 2010

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell is struggling to get on top of the stealth rezonings that have raised the property taxes of 250 O’ahu residents, mostly in Kalihi, by more than 300 percent.

The outcry could affect the Sept. 18 election chances of both Caldwell and former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who handed his former managing director the mayor’s job — and the tax problem — when he resigned to run for governor.

The issue is the surprise reclassification of apartments and homes from residential to commercial and industrial. In one case cited by the Star-Advertiser, a Stanley Street resident saw his bill go up from $2,335 last year to $10,552.

Many of the residents are elderly and some have lived in their homes more than 50 years; with all the confusion and payments already due, they have few options.

It’s disturbing how Caldwell and Hannemann have deflected responsibility for the hardship these people are suffering, saying it was a decision by anonymous tax assessors and not a policy call by the administration.

The last time I looked, the mayor and managing director had oversight authority for city bureaucrats, and either they were asleep at the wheel or chose not to head off this disaster for the homeowners to squeeze out a few more property tax dollars at their expense.

City Council members say they were never notified of the changes by the administration and certainly would have done something to provide relief if they had known.

What the administration is missing with its technocratic tap dancing — and council members and others in the community are seeing clearly with their outrage — is that you just don’t treat people this way.

Affected residents apparently have no recourse this tax year except to ask the city for a “structured tax payment plan” and have only until September 1 to apply for a waiver next year.

Both Caldwell and some council members are floating bills to refund the excess taxes, but homeowners would have to pay now and hope to get their money back later.

That’s just plain chicken, and creative leadership would have found a fair resolution before it became a crisis for these folks.

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