The political gods smile on Mufi Hannemann

After the embarrassing drubbing former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann took from Neil Abercrombie in last year’s governor’s race, who would have thought he’d have a chance to climb back into one of the state’s top offices just two years later?

But the 2nd Congressional District seat opened by Mazie Hirono’s run for retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s job seems a golden opportunity for Hannemann to reclaim a choice spot on Hawai‘i’s political ladder.

The dismal 37.8 percent of the vote he received against Abercrombie was a stunning repudiation, and he’d have a lot to worry about if he had to go one-on-one against another top Democrat.

But this congressional race could draw a half-dozen candidates or more, and Hannemann would need only a plurality to win. If he held anywhere near that 37.8 percent, he’d win in a landslide; Hirono won a multi-candidate primary in 2006 with barely 20 percent of the vote.

Hannemann will have a substantial bankroll and likely a long list of business and labor endorsements that his current announced opponents — freshman City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard and veteran congressional aide Esther Kiaaina — will find difficult to match.

Former state Sen. Gary Hooser has also expressed interest, but he seems to have peaked with middle-of-the-pack finishes in the 2006 congressional race and last year’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

No Republican candidate of any weight has emerged.

Unless there’s a surprise entry or Hannemann makes more of the foolish mistakes that did him in against Abercrombie, this race looks like his to lose.

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12 Comments on “The political gods smile on Mufi Hannemann”

  1. bobmcdermott Says:

    I think Mufi will make a great congressman, he will work hard and diligently and focus on economic development for our State. Perhaps he can lighten the load that Senator Inouye carriers for us all with regard to military spending. Also, Mufi appeals to republicans like myself as a reasonable and level headed person looking for common sense solutions. I commend them all for offer us a choice, a menu of options to chose from when the time comes.

  2. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Given that level of competition, Mufi is a shoo in.

  3. Hugh Clark Says:

    I need to know first if Mufi is going to represent the LDS or Hawaii, if he wants to be a Mormon Missionary or a politician. And when did he move house into our district?

  4. Kolea Says:

    While I am unsure how the gods are viewing Mufi’s ambitions, there are signs he has fallen out of favor with beings slightly lower in the pecking order. While I am not in the inner circle, there are outer circles to which I have access and I see signs a lot of “movers and shakers” have concluded Mufi is “damaged goods.”

    Some powerful networks and individuals are lining up behind Tulsi Gabbard, a face which suggests “independence” but one acceptable enough that she was supported behind the scenes by Team Inouye during her City Council run.

    If you are looking for signs to divine the future, I would gaze not towards the heavens, but towards the actions of men, sometimes public and sometimes more hidden. Just as much of the Democratic power elite was supporting Carlisle in the Mayor’s race and people assumed Caldwell was the annoited one, this time, it may be Tulsi who has been annointed.

    Once you look for it, you will see it.

  5. Seawalker Says:

    Hanabusa should have run in the 2nd district where she rightfully belongs. Then you can have Mufi and Djou duke it out in the 1st district which makes for a very intersting contest.

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As a Second Congressional District resident, I think I am going to take a pass on this race. Much as I would LOVE to see a young Hawai`i Democrat elected to Congress, I have some very serious doubts aboutTulsi’s positions on reproductive health issues, civil unions/same-sex marriage, the role of the military in our lives, separation of church state. and a wide range of social justice issues.

  7. Hugh Clark Says:

    I share Capitol -ist’s concerns but I have not ducked a race yet in my life. I have no intention of starting now.

  8. Kolea Says:

    There’s a saying in politics that the shape of the field determines the winner of an election. Dave thinks the shape of this field points to a Mufi victory. If Mufi can hold on to his 37.8 percent, and the rest of the field splits the right way, he will win.

    I can accept that framing, but it is not clear how the rest of the field is likely split and whether some of the other candidates might not draw votes, and organizational support, away from Mufi.

    Given Mufi’s longstanding relationship with developers and moneyed interests, but the conditions may be aligning for Hooser to have a real shot at winning. IN the other races, Hooser had to split votes with other liberal candidates. A lot of environmentalists and social liberals, for example, “loved” Gary, but voted for Brian Schatz as the best bet for preventing a victory by either Bobby Bunda or Norm Sakamoto.

    In this election, Hooser appears to have the liberal edge of the Democratic electorate to himself. Tulsi will try to compete with him for environmental votes, but her history of hard right activism against gay rights, reproductive choice and her early cheerleading for Bush’s wars, will greatly undercut her appeal to the majority of enviros. That will leave her competing with Mufi for the social conservatives.

    Esther Kiaaina is the unknown quantity (to me). On the surface, her core support would appear to come from DC-oriented Hawaiian activists. She may have the intelligence and charm to broaden her appeal. But that original base of support is fraught with difficulties. Hawaiians have split views on the Akaka Bill, some may be unhappy with her “abandonment” of Akaka for Ed Case. And, frankly, few Hawaiians vote. Because she is intelligent, it is too early to write her off. I could find no public statements to indicate where she stands on issues likely to increase her support, or to motivate voters to oppose her.

    Beyond the strengths and charms of the candidates, they are all, in a sense, auditioning for the role of the “anti-Mufi.” Just as Mufi goes into an election with about 40% of the voters likely to vote FOR him, there is a similarly sized bloc of voters determined to vote Anyone But Mufi. I think Hooser is the best-positioned of the three likely candidates to serve that role.

    Given Mufi’s money and organizational advantages, can Hooser pull it off? I dunno. But I suspect the race will get down to Hooser versus Mufi.

  9. yobo Says:

    Hooser doesn’t have a prayer.

  10. Kapolei AdvocateII Says:

    I agree with Kolea.

    I believe Tulsi and Mufi with duke it out for the social conservative votes. On the other hand, Esther Kiaaina is relatively unknown to most Hawaii voters. I’m waiting to see her position and whether she can campaign before counting her out. Kiaaina will probably pull the Hawaiian vote which can hurt Mufi on the neighbor islands. Gary Hooser cant raise the money needed to compete.

  11. Kaneohe Says:

    Kia’aina has the right chemistry with 25 years experience in Washington DC. With the vacancy of Akaka from the US Senate, Kiaaina is needed to represent the host people and culture.

  12. shaftalley Says:

    hawaii will continue to have serious problems with these proffesional politicians taking turns being’s a scam.

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