Archive for September 2010

Don’t count Abercrombie out on GOP math

September 19, 2010

Local Republicans had better hope they’re better at campaigning than arithmetic heading into the general election for governor.

After Saturday’s primary, GOP chairman Jonah Ka‘auwai issued a statement belittling Neil Abercrombie’s landslide victory over Mufi Hannemann on the Democratic side.

Ka‘auwai said, “While a stunning percentage victory over Hannemann, Abercrombie garnered fewer votes than Randy Iwase did in 2006 Democrat Primary for governor.  Democrats will now have to fight to unify after a bitter primary while Republicans are already unified and ready to hit the ground running in the weeks leading into the General Election.”

I’m not sure how he figures; Abercrombie got 142,234 votes against Hannemann compared to Iwase’s 119,058 votes against William Aila in 2006.

The only good news Republicans can take from the 2006 numbers is that Iwase barely improved his total in the general election to 121,717 votes, while Republican incumbent Gov. Linda Lingle swooped in to take virtually all of Aila’s votes, all of the  51,813 blank Democratic ballots and all of the  72,295 additional voters who came into the general to amass 215,313 in trouncing Iwase.

But this isn’t 2006, Aiona isn’t Lingle and Abercrombie isn’t Iwase.

In that race, Lingle was a popular incumbent with $6 million while Iwase was a relatively little-known late starter who put up a brave fight with pocket change. This time, Abercrombie has the better established track record against the untested Aiona, who has never won an election on his own, and the Democrats will be at no significant disadvantage in funding.

The real math facing the Republicans is daunting. Primary turnout this year was slightly more than 2006 at 292,838 compared to 276,693. If increased turnout in the general election turnout is also roughly comparable, it’ll be about 370,000 and Abercrombie or Aiona would need around 185,000 votes to win.

Assuming Abercrombie holds most of the 142,234 voters who favored him in the primary, a good bet, he’d need only about 43,000 more to win from the 90,535 Hannemann votes and 70,000+ additional voters expected to come into the general election, which would seem quite achievable if Democrats present the wall of unity they are promising.

The Republican challenge will be to throw up some kind of game changer and hope Abercrombie blunders after carefully avoiding doing so in the primary.

The likely GOP strategy will be to appeal to religious voters and harshly attack Abercrombie’s liberal congressional record in a way Hannemann couldn’t after his ill-advised “Compare and Decide” ad raised voter sensitivity to any kind of negative campaigning.

But the Republicans won’t be immune from attack themselves, with the Lingle administration’s eight-year record of gridlock with the Legislature and a dismal economy to answer for.


Welcome to Election Night Live

September 18, 2010

11:25 PM

I received a big glossy mailer from Kirk Caldwell the day before the election that had an annotated copy of the Star-Advertiser editorial endorsing him on one side, which was fine.

But the other side was all Donna Tanoue, Caldwell’s wife, and U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, on whose staff Caldwell served 30 years ago.

Tanoue, a banker and former chair of the FDIC in the Clinton administration after serving as Inouye’s campaign chairman, assured us that she knows Caldwell “really well” because she’s been married to him for 29 years.

Inouye’s letter to Caldwell talked more about Tanoue than Caldwell and seemed to suggest that Caldwell’s greatest achievement on Inouye’s staff was meeting Tanoue.

Caldwell isn’t the first haole politician to put his local wife on prominent display — Jeremy Harris and Ed Case come to mind — but this is the first time I’ve seen the wife displayed almost as prominently as the candidate. Caldwell mentioned her often in the televised debates, while I wasn’t sure if Peter Carlisle or Panos Prevedouros were even married.

I never understood the strategy of making himself look like a weak candidate who needed to be propped up by others.

I thought Caldwell did a good job during his term as House majority leader, and tonight I heard House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro and Rep. Marilyn Lee speak eloquently about Caldwell’s leadership and passion for public service when they worked with him.

You have to wonder why people like them and the examples they offered weren’t at the at the center of his campaign instead of leaning so heavily on his wife and Inouye, neither of whom had much useful to say on his behalf.

With that, over and out for the night. Thanks for visiting.

10:35 PM

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano said earlier this evening that how Democrats come together together after the primary will depend on what Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann say tonight.

Hannemann did his part with a gracious concession speech in which he congratulated Abercrombie and offered support, thanked his supporters and promised to live to fight another day.

He said plainly, “The people of Hawai‘i have spoken and said, ‘Mufi, this is not your time,’ and I accept that decision.”

Abercrombie couldn’t have asked for more and responded by promising to earn the trust and respect of Hannemann voters with his “wave of change and hope.”

The conventional wisdom before the election was that Republican James “Duke” Aiona would match up better against Abercrombie than Hannemann.

The main reason is the hope that many of Hannemann’s voters who share Aiona’s more moderate and socially conservative views might vote for him.

But the Republicans didn’t count on the strength of Abercrombie’s landslide victory, which greatly enhances his chances of uniting the party.

9:55 PM

The mayor’s race remains the most interesting with the gap continuing to close against Peter Carlisle, but we’ll see if there are enough votes still outstanding to erase the gap.

While Carlisle’s percentage from the first readout has dropped slightly, the numbers he’s losing seem to be going to Panos Prevedouros more than Kirk Caldwell, and Prevedouros is way too far behind to catch up.

Interesting that Robert Bunda has passed Norman Sakamoto for second place for lieutenant governor behind Brian Schatz, who seems to have an insurmountable lead. Looks like Bunda’s late advertising run had some effect.

9:30 PM

I may be missing something, but I’m not seeing much Tea Party sentiment in the Republican primary.

You have to assume that those who stayed home to vote in the GOP primary when most of the action was on the Democratic side were the most devoted members of the party.

Yet among this core group, there seemed to be little Tea Party uprising. John Carroll, who was endorsed by conservative state Sen. Sam Slom, is getting only 4 percent of the vote for governor against James “Duke” Aiona.

Others identified with the party’s conservative wing such as lieutenant governor candidate Adrienne King and state senate candidate Joe Pandolfe were also trailing substantially.

(I have no control over the Google ad on that sometimes flashes on my blog dissing the Tea Party and derive no revenue from it.)

8:40 PM

As this story develops, there will be a lot of talk about what Mufi Hannemann did wrong, but we should start by talking about what Neil Abercrombie did right.

A few things that stood out to me:

  • He committed from the start to the Barack Obama model of running a positive campaign of hope and never diverted from it. He claimed the high road early and held it. When Hannemann went negative, Abercrombie’s response that “it’s not what a governor does” cut off the former mayor at the knees.
  • He took the hit for resigning his U.S. House seat and got an early start on the campaign. Being here all year instead of having to commute from Washington on weekends made a critical difference in developing his message and building his organization, especially on the neighbor islands.
  • He took it in stride when some endorsements he thought he should get went the other way — especially the unions — and succeeded in winning over a good share of their constituencies despite the snub from leadership.
  • He took early to the increasingly important social media and used the platform effectively. If he holds onto a vote total in the high 50s it’ll be very impressive, but I saw one Twitter-based poll in which he had over 70 percent.
  • Abercrombie lowered his voice and stifled the excitable arm gestures without losing the energy he brings to a campaign. It was a tight, honest, no-drama campaign that got voters comfortable with the idea that he could wield a steady hand as governor.
  • He neatly trimmed his trademark hair and beard and was usually seen in a sharp blazer and tie with his congressional button prominently displayed. It showed respect for voters and the office and headed off any attempt to portray him as an aging hippie.

7:40 PM

Rep. Blake Oshiro has a strong early lead, 52 to 44 percent over Councilman Gary Okino in a race being closely watched by HB 444 advocates.

Between this and the Democratic governor’s race, the anti-civil unions vote isn’t showing legs, although it still could in the general election.

Other interesting legislative numbers:

DELA CRUZ, Donovan 626 39.1%
HAGINO, Gerald T. (Gerry) 383 23.9%
MAGAOAY, Michael Y. 383 23.9%

SAY, Calvin K.Y. 1,161 68.2%
SYNAN, Dwight D. 463 27.2%

CHOY, Isaac W. 1,161 57.2%
CASE, Kimberly S. 709 35.0%

SCHULTZ, Mike 349 45.6%

MORIKAWA, Daynette (Dee) 1,178 58.8%
SAGUM, Roland D. III 693 34.6%

HANOHANO, Faye P. 573 46.5%
MARZI, Anthony (Tony) 571 46.3%

It looks like Keith Kaneshiro might be poised for a comeback as Honolulu prosecutor with 41 percent against 32 percent for Don Pacarro and 15 percent for Darwin Ching.

7:20 PM

The lights went out for awhile at Mufi Hannemann’s campaign headquarters even before the first returns were released, and the big question now that he’s facing an 18-percent deficit after the first printout, is whether the lights are out on his chances.

Hannemann supporters are putting up a brave front, noting that Hannemann also trailed Duke Bainum in 2004 when the first absentee votes were counted.

But he was behind only a few points then, and there was a major attack on Bainum’s wife in the final days of that campaign. He exponentially further behind now and there were no potential late game-changers in this campaign.

Republican James “Duke” Aiona can rest very comfortably with an 89-point lead over John Carroll, as can GOP lieutenant governor candidate Lynn Finnegan, who leads attorney Adrienne King by 32 points.

Things are looking very good on the Democratic LG side for Brian Schatz, who gained ground over runner-up Norman Sakamoto from the polls to lead by 18 points.

Most competitive is the Honolulu mayor’s race, where Peter Carlisle leads Kirk Caldwell 42 percent to 36 percent. But Caldwell has closed the gap considerably from the early polls and we’ll see if he closed further between the absentee vote and the same-day vote.

6 PM

If there was any question about the intensity of the 2010 primary election, it was clear to see on a Kalihi street corner this morning.

I participate in a Saturday event several time a year at Kuhio Park Terrace that happened to fall on primary election day in 2008 and again today.

One of Mufi Hannemann’s traditional election morning sign-waving spots is the corner of School and Likelike in front of the Kam Shopping Center.

When he ran for re-election as Honolulu mayor in 2008 against Ann Kobayashi and Panos Prevedouros, there was some question about whether he would get 50 percent  to win it in the primary, but little doubt about who would end up mayor.

When I drove by, he was standing on the curb offering laid-back waves to motorists as he chatted with campaign workers.

It was an entirely different picture when I passed the intersection today. Hannemann and his wife Gail were out on the median strip where they could be seen by traffic in all four directions, standing back to back as they circled like a couple of outnumbered gunfighters.

Hannemann was really working it, his arms circling in a windmill motion as he alternated shakas with finger points and bent down to make eye contact with every car he could in a determined performance that was rewarded with quite a few honks.

Hannemann repeated the scene at several other spots around the island during the day, while his Democratic opponent Neil Abercrombie toured the island in a trolley before setting up for an election night bash at the former CompUSA building on Ala Moana.

They battled to the end, and now have no moves left but to join the rest of us in awaiting the verdict.

flASHback alert/election night plans

September 18, 2010

Today’s “flASHback” column in the Star-Advertiser: “Notable quotes underline the importance of voting.”

And a reminder that the blog will run live tonight to post my own impressions of the returns and welcome the comments of anybody else who cares to analyze or vent. I’ll start around 6 p.m. and stay up as long as races are still in doubt.

Time for the voters to speak

September 17, 2010

This has been one of the most intense election seasons I can remember in Hawai‘i, and I’ve heard more than enough to make my choices and am glad to see it coming to an end — the primary segment, anyhow.

It’s been a long campaign mainly because it got off to an early start with the spring special congressional election to replace Neil Abercrombie, a free-for-all between Charles Djou, Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case that was unusually noisy because of the national implications and the fierce infighting on the Democratic side.

In the primary campaign, Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie have given us the biggest Democratic heavyweight showdown since John Burns and Tom Gill in 1970, with our most spirited LG race ever thrown in for good measure.

Add hotly contested special elections for Honolulu mayor and prosecutor, the biblical Democratic House primary between Blake Oshiro and Gary Okino and a bunch of contentious legislative and City Council primaries and it’s enough to leave even the most hardy political junkies sucking for air.

The 2010 election won’t end with the primary, of course; the general election will  feature a competitive race between Hannemann or Abercrombie against Republican James “Duke” Aiona, a brawling rematch of Djou vs. Hanabusa, some scrappy legislative and council races and an important constitutional amendment on the future of the Board of Education.

But tomorrow, we’ll start to get an idea of whether Hawai‘i  is entering a period of modest political change or if the dominant group since statehood will gain perhaps its tightest grip on power ever.  


ELECTION NIGHT SPECIAL: A reminder that as in the last two elections, I plan to run the blog live on election night to post my own impressions of the returns and welcome the comments of anybody else who cares to analyze or vent. I’ll start around 6 p.m. and stay up as long as races are still in doubt.

Hannemann rolls the dice on GOP appeal

September 16, 2010

Crossover voting has been an undercurrent in the governor’s race, with third-party groups aligned with Mufi Hannemann appealing to Republicans — especially religious conservatives — to pull Democratic ballots and vote for Hannemann.

But Hannemann’s direct personal appeal this week to Republicans and religious voters raises the stakes — and the risks.

It suggests that despite his campaign’s claims to the contrary, the former Honolulu mayor believes polls showing him running behind Neil Abercrombie and feels he needs to fish aggressively for votes wherever he can find them.

But there’s no guarantee that all Republicans who cross over would vote for Hannemann. Many are furious about the $5.5 billion rail project he launched as mayor, and others took offense at his “I look like you, you look like me” speech.

Few Republicans have much aloha for the liberal Abercrombie, but some might vote for him on the belief that he’d be a better match for likely Republican nominee James “Duke” Aiona.

And there’s the possibility that Hannemann’s statements that he shares many GOP values and worked for two Republican national administrations may turn off Democrats who have always questioned whether he’s really one of them, leading them to ask, “Why should I vote for a guy who says he shares Republican values?”

Hannemann is a smart and experienced campaigner, and obviously he’s done the math and sees a potential net gain.

Any Republicans he attracts to the Democratic primary could also have an impact in the lieutenant governor’s contest, where most would likely go with the religiously conservative Norman Sakamoto, who in a recent Star-Advertiser poll was trailing the more liberal Brian Schatz but was within striking distance.

It could all become moot if Gov. Linda Lingle and the state Republican Party succeed in persuading Republicans to stay home and vote in the GOP primary.


ELECTION NIGHT SPECIAL: As in the last two elections, I plan to run the blog live on election night to post my own impressions of the returns and welcome the comments of anybody else who cares to analyze or vent. I’ll start around 6 p.m. and stay up as long as races are still in doubt.

Call the caterer in the mayor’s race

September 14, 2010

I’ve already voted absentee, but I watched the last televised mayoral debate anyway to get a sense of what we’re in for. (OK, I TiVo’ed through some of it.)

I didn’t hear anything inspiring, but concluded that we’ll probably be OK with the top candidates that are most likely to win. A few impressions:

  • Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell had the most command of the details of city government, as would be expected after his two-year stint as managing director, but he didn’t capitalize on it as much as he could have because of a tendency to fall into technical jargon like “workforce housing.” Still, he looked more confident and at ease than the last time I saw him in a similar setting. I wish he didn’t seem to feel  his campaign depends on how many times he mentions his wife Donna Tanoue.
  • Peter Carlisle knew Caldwell would ask about his pay raises as city prosecutor, but blew an opportunity to put it to rest by failing to prepare a clear answer that fit within the time limit. He blew his chance to nail Caldwell back on a juicy issue like property tax exemptions by asking him an obscure question about blank votes counting as “no” votes on state constitutional amendments. Perhaps his strongest issue is his promise to break up the pay-to-play contracting system, but he mostly buried it.
  • Panos Prevedouros promised at the start of the campaign to broaden his issues beyond opposition to rail, but everything always seems to come back to rail, rail, rail. As a result, it’s difficult to see him broadening his voter base beyond his third-place finish in 2008.
  • Rod Tam was forced to answer  questions in the most public way ever about the police investigation into his city restaurant tabs and his legislative proposal to give government workers naps and snacks. All I can say is he often didn’t use all the time allotted to him.

Caldwell said in his closing remarks that he was glad the debate was over because he was hungry. I’m feeling that way about the whole primary campaign.

Support Matayoshi, but boot the school board

September 14, 2010

I have no problem with Kathryn Matayoshi as public schools superintendent. She delivered the goods by bringing home the $75 million federal “Race to the Top” grant — and more impressively, winning it by bringing together all elements of the education establishment on a much-needed reform program for our schools.

I wish her the best of luck in the daunting task of keeping everybody together and getting the plan executed.

But the Board of Education did her no favors with the haphazard selection process that lacked the transparency and professionalism we deserve from public agencies on appointments of this magnitude. It creates suspicion and controversy that Matayoshi doesn’t need with all of the challenges facing her.

BOE Chairman Garrett Toguchi’s secrecy surrounding former superintendent Pat Hamamoto’s departure and Matayoshi’s elevation to the interim job made it look like a political setup.

Interviewing only Matayoshi for the job in a secretive process with a mysterious schedule after hiring a search consultant and attracting 24 applicants only added to the impression.

I believe in giving a fair chance those who rise to our top public jobs, and Matayoshi has earned it with her performance on “Race to the Top.”

But the inept Board of Education that has tripped all over itself in handling the transition from Hamamoto to Matayoshi has got to go. There’s more reason than ever for voters to pass the November constitutional amendment switching from an elected to appointed school board.

A taxing connection for Caldwell

September 13, 2010

I’m getting buzz in my e-mail inbox about the Rob Perez story in yesterday’s Star-Advertiser about how nearly 250 O’ahu homeowners — including acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell — are paying as little as $300 a year in property taxes by having a special “historic” designation placed on their houses.

Some readers don’t like the way the dots connect between the mayor paying minimal taxes on the $1.8 million Manoa home he owns with his wife Donna Tanoue and the recent city tax reclassifications that smacked some 250 O’ahu residents, mostly in Kalihi, with property tax increases of more than 300 percent in some cases.

One Stanley Street homeowner saw his bill go up from $2,335 last year to $10,552 this year. The city’s initial response was to offer affected homeowners a payment plan, although Caldwell has since proposed more substantive relief.

According to the Star-Advertiser, Caldwell saw his property tax drop from nearly $5,500 in 2005 to $100 in 2006 when he took advantage of the decades-old historic home exemption; the minimum flat tax has since increased to $300. Caldwell was in the Legislature and not working for the city at the time.

The Perez story had drawn more than 200 online reader comments the last time I looked, most of which seemed to be directing ire at “the rich” in general rather than Caldwell specifically, but it’s not a good kind of attention less than a week before the election.

Democrats: Rules made for ignoring II

September 13, 2010

Our discussion about Democratic Party rules and their enforcement (or lack thereof) takes an interesting new turn with the party’s move to discipline Gary Okino with expulsion, censure or reprimand for supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming election, including Cam Cavasso over U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Okino, a Honolulu councilman, is running in the Democratic primary against Rep. Blake Oshiro, the author of HB 444, and Democrats have every right to be up in arms that he’s endorsed a long list of Republicans who share his opposition to gay unions.

But the Democrats also have a pesky little problem: Two years ago, Inouye committed essentially the same infraction when he went against the party’s fight to gain a filibuster-proof Senate majority by campaigning for the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens in Alaska.

There were huge issues of national interest at stake in terms of the Democrats’ ability to enact their programs, but we heard not a peep of reprimand or hint of censure against Inouye.

It’s more than a little hypocritical for the party to now come down with both feet on Okino for doing the same thing to Inouye (and others) that Inouye did in 2008 to Alaska Democrat Mark Begich.

If rules don’t apply equally to everybody, a party can hardly call itself “democratic.”

flASHback alert

September 11, 2010

Today’s “flASHback” column in the Star-Advertiser: “Government common sense replaced with ‘idiot’ version.”

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