Archive for September 2010

Beyond the bench

September 22, 2010

Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona isn’t the only former judge looking to apply his legal experience in another arena.

I hear that Family Court Judge Michael Broderick will step down from the bench to become CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu. YMCA president and CEO Larry Bush announced his retirement in July after 40 years of serving the YMCA.

It looks like a harmonic convergence for Broderick’s abilities. He has extensive administrative experience as a former courts administrator under Chief Justice Ronald Moon and as a judge, he’s had extensive experience working for the betterment of kids and families, which is the YMCA’s core mission.

I’d look for big things from the Y as it seeks to expand its already considerable footprint on O‘ahu.

Another debate about debates. Yawn …

September 22, 2010

Two days after Republican James “Duke” Aiona challenged his Democratic opponent for governor Neil Abercrombie to six debates, Aiona’s campaign manager Dutch Hanohano issued a press release ripping Abercrombie for not immediately accepting.

“The people of Hawai‘i need real solutions, not just talk,” Hanohano said in what  hardly seemed a compelling argument for six hours of talk.

There is nothing more boring in a political campaign than a debate about debates, which is on the same intellectual level as the argument over the shape of the table at the Paris peace talks.

In the 2006 Senate race between Daniel Akaka and Ed Case, you would have thought for a time that Case’s only issue was Akaka’s refusal to debate him as often as he wanted. You saw how far that got him.

Early in this year’s Democratic primary, it was Abercrombie whining that Mufi Hannemann wouldn’t agree to his debate demands. They ended up debating so many times in forums around the state that they were feeding each other cues.

Aiona is right that there need to be substantive debates before we go to the polls, but no candidate is going to accept an opponent’s debate proposal as presented — effectively allowing his own campaign timetable to be set by the opposition.

It happens by the campaigns meeting with the private groups that sponsor debates and hashing out a schedule. Until that process happens, trying to paint an opponent as being afraid to debate is one of the oldest — and cheapest — tricks in the book.

This election isn’t going to be decided by who’s the better debate organizer.

Has the train to nowhere reached its destination?

September 21, 2010

Nothing has been thrown more up in the air in the wake of Mufi Hannemann’s resignation as mayor and failed run for governor than his $5.5 billion O‘ahu rail project.

Hannemann got the 20-mile commuter line from Kapolei to Ala Moana approved on the force of his will and showed immense political skill in advancing it further in his first term than his predecessors managed in 30 years.

Now it’s a big question mark.

Mayor-elect Peter Carlisle says he supports rail, but there’s no clear sign if he’ll stay with the same plan and the same team or make changes that could result in big delays. He’ll be working with five new City Council members out of nine, and who knows what they’ll think.

Gov. Linda Lingle has held the up the environmental impact statement for a new financial review that won’t be finished until after she leaves office Dec. 6.

The two candidates to succeed her both say they support rail, but to different degrees. Republican James “Duke” Aiona says he’d finish Lingle’s financial review, while Democrat Neil Abercrombie has said he’s prepared to sign the EIS on his first day.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Abercrombie’s friend and longtime political ally, has said he’ll sue if the EIS if it is approved in its current form. Carlisle says he’ll tap Cayetano’s expertise on transportation.

Some legislators are eager to raid the $500 million already collected from the half-cent O‘ahu excise tax for rail if there is any sign the project is stalled. Throwing the money into the state general fund would be a gross injustice to O‘ahu residents, who would effectively be paying a tax of 4.5 percent for the same state services neighbor islanders get for 4 percent.

When U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye recently made a big show of “begging” Lingle to sign the EIS, it was seen by some as a sign that he saw rail collapsing under its own weight and was setting up the Republican governor for the blame.

But it’s not that easy. If Hannemann had finished his term instead of throwing rail to the wind by quitting to run for governor with Inouye’s encouragement, the EIS delay would be a temporary bump in the road and Hannemann very likely could have had had construction well under way by time his term ended in 2012.

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.

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