Posted tagged ‘election 2012’

The political gods smile on Mufi Hannemann

September 7, 2011

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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Bachmann debate turns crazy

August 10, 2011

The latest tempest in the political teapot involves a Newsweek cover photo of GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann that some supporters say is unflattering and makes her look crazy.

Even liberal feminists from the National Organization for Women are denouncing as sexist the headline that proclaims the tea party favorite to be “The Queen of Rage.”

“The ‘Queen of Rage’ is something you apply to wrestlers or somebody who is crazy,” said NOW president Terry O’Neill.

Personally, I’m inclined to agree with my Facebook friend David Harada-Stone, who posted, “I’d be more worried that the sh** she says makes her sound crazy.”

But professionally, I know that references based on gender and race have high potential to inflame, distort and distract the discussion and feel Newsweek should have known better.

We learned the lesson in the 2008 presidential campaign, when columnists like Maureen Dowd of the New York Times took major heat over gender-based putdowns of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

I also got some grief from Clinton supporters about comments I made to the effect that we needed to expand the political gene pool and stop trading the presidency back and forth between Bushes and Clintons.

But they couldn’t get me for gender bias; I reviewed what I’d written about Clinton and found no references to her gender except “she” and “her.”

I don’t see it as political correctness to use neutral language on matters of personal identity to avoid inflaming sensitivities. It’s a common courtesy that makes the public discourse a little more civil.

Politics straight out of Toon Town

August 9, 2011

I’m reluctant to wade into the finger-pointing over who’s to blame for S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, but one thing President Barack Obama said rang true to me.

The president said S&P’s move was “not so much because they doubt our ability to pay our debt … but because after witnessing a month of wrangling over raising the debt ceiling, they doubted our political system’s ability to act.”

The sad fact is that after standing as a beacon of stability in the world for most of our history, we’re becoming a politically unstable nation, unable to handle the most basic functions of government in an orderly and effective manner.

Our political system is a complex array of checks and balances that depends on compromise to get things done. It’s virtually impossible for anybody to have everything their own way, and when the parties refuse to compromise, the system breaks down.

We’ve come to play it as a game of sticking the other guy with the blame, but the collapse of the stock market in the wake of the debt crisis shows that this “game” has very real consequences — not only for the high-rollers on Wall Street, but for ordinary folks within pensions and 401k’s whose retirement depends on stable markets.

Of most concern is that the major players don’t seem to have learned anything from the trauma they’ve caused us.

Political money and passion these days flow to the extremes, where compromise is reviled, and the two sides are already revving up a 2012 national political campaign likely to take cartoonish demonization to a new level.

With so many voters disgusted and disengaged, I’m not seeing a path back to political stability anytime soon.

It’s already hold-your-nose time in the Hawai‘i’s U.S. Senate race

August 5, 2011

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a couple of bizarre statements this week in Hawai‘i’s much anticipated 2012 U.S. Senate race, which so far has U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case competing on the Democratic side for a likely match against former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

In one missive, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil scolded Case for publicizing his campaign poll that purported to show him leading Lingle while Hirono trails the Republican.

“I don’t believe Mr. Case is being honest with this poll,” Cecil said. “It exaggerates support for him and for Lingle. It also contradicts polling we have done in this race that shows Hirono leading Lingle by 19 points.”

Who knows if Case’s poll was right or not, but it was done by an established pollster in Hawai‘i and the sample was taken months apart from the DSCC survey.

In any event, using polling data to underline your message is a standard campaign tactic, and since when does the national party get involved in an intramural squabble this early in the game?

It makes you wonder how the statement came to be issued. Did Hirono go crying to the DSCC for protection? Was it U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a longtime Case antagonist, keeping his promise to remain neutral by having a surrogate do the dirty work?

Establishment Democrats don’t seem to get it that they shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of carping.

The more Hirono seems to need the protection of “the boys,” the weaker she appears. The more the party establishment acts afraid of Case, the more moderates in the party and independent voters like him.

Equally nonsensical was a separate statement by the DSCC’s Matt Canter attacking Lingle after she dipped her toe further into the race.

“Hyper-partisan Linda Lingle is trying to hide her long record as a partisan bomb thrower in order to go to Washington and rubber stamp the extreme Republican agenda that would end Medicare and give tax breaks to oil companies,” Canter said.

Over-the-top rhetoric may sound good in Washington’s overcharged political environment, but it just doesn’t play in Hawai‘i. This was proven beyond any doubt in last year’s race in the 1st Congressional District, when similar ultra-nasty and factually dubious attacks by national Republicans against Colleen Hanabusa helped her more than hurt her.

Lingle has an eight-year record as governor that’s fair game for criticism, but trying to portray her as a bomb-throwing GOP extremist won’t resonate with most Hawai‘i voters who know better.

She has a long-established record as a moderate within her party and has been derided as a RINO — Republican in name only — by conservative advocates of the extreme-right agenda locally and nationally.

Hardly a bomb-thrower, many of her failures as governor could be traced to an excess of caution.

The more the national parties involve themselves in our 2012 Senate race, the more Hawai‘i voters will hold their noses — and last year’s CD1 race showed that’s not a good thing for the side emitting the most odor.

Hanabusa can now vote for herself

June 13, 2011

To finish off a story we’ve been following, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced she’ll move into the 1st Congressional District she represents by renting a Kakaako apartment until she can sell her Ko Olina home and buy in town.

The new residence that she’ll use the one week a month she’s in Hawai‘i enables her to become a registered voter of the 1st District, and as far as I’m concerned, that satisfies her campaign promise to move into the district if she was elected over Charles Djou.

Hanabusa could have waited to see if Ko Olina ends up in the 1st District after reapportionment as some have speculated, but it would have been read as a broken promise that she didn’t need hanging over her head — especially if she jumps into the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Making the move gives her bragging rights over fellow U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, a possible rival in the Senate race and a resident of the 1st District who never bothered to move into the 2nd District she represents.

If the Ko Olina home doesn’t sell — it’s listed at $1.25 million — Hanabusa can always move back if her circumstances change next year, but likely she needs to downsize her Hawai‘i housing to raise proceeds to help pay for an additional residence in Washington.

Dueling ex-mayors

May 26, 2011

Prominent politicians who lose their jobs can be forlorn figures while waiting for the next election opportunity.

Honolulu’s most recent former mayors, Mufi Hannemann and Kirk Caldwell, have been gamely trying to keep their public personas alive on Twitter since September, when Hannemann lost badly to Neil Abercrombie for governor and Caldwell was edged out for mayor by Peter Carlisle.

They started out posting a lot of dorky stuff like city news bites that really don’t cut it with the cool kids, and there’s still a lot of that.

From @KirkCaldwell recently:

– “Congratulations to Dana L. Nakasato, who received the Outstanding Citizen Award for her work in assisting the Honolulu Police Department.”

– “Good news for voters. The voting deadline for Neighborhood Boards is extended until 11:59 pm.”

– “Congratulations to Curtis T. Maeshiro, Civilian Employee of the Year for the second time in his 30-year career at HPD.”

– “Sorry for the late reminder that today is a City furlough day.”

– “Don’t be alarmed by the sirens. Just a test. If you hear them, everything is working.”

And from @MufiHannemann:

– “The Honolulu Police are asking for the public’s help in locating an escapee from OCCC.”

– “Big Island police searching for missing man”

– “Passing on a useful traffic alert: Onramp to H1 Westbound from University Av will be closed from 9–2pm today for guardrail maintenance work.”

– “The ‘Click it or Ticket’ campaign is kicking off today. Make sure to be safe and buckle your seat belt!”

– “It’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Is your family prepared?”

But they’re both showing signs of branching out a bit, as well. Hannemann is writing more about his gig with the Hawaii Hotel Association and promotes his new radio show playing pop classics, his Midweek column and his personal appearances.

Caldwell, who’s back to practicing law, tried the ultimate in Twitter cool by hosting a Corn Chowder Tweetup at the Mission Houses Museum Cafe. From the picture he posted, it looked like he got a respectable turnout.

Both are weighing their options for 2012, with Hannemann looking at a races for either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House and Caldwell pondering a U.S. House race or a rematch against Carlisle.

It would be fascinating if they ended up going head to head for Congress. Caldwell. a former legislator, was Hannemann’s managing director for two years and succeeded him as acting mayor.

They didn’t end on the best of terms; Hannemann accused Caldwell of dragging down his 2010 campaign and Caldwell thought it was more the other way around.

Obama on the political rebound?

May 11, 2011

It’s amazing what a gutsy move to settle an old score can do for a president’s standing with voters.

President Barack Obama’s approval rating surged to 60 percent of voters in an Associated Press-GfK poll after the dramatic Navy Seals mission that killed Osama bin Laden, recovering from a low of 47 percent after last year’s Republican gains in midterm congressional elections and approaching his high of 64 percent after his election in 2008.

Bin Laden’s ability to elude U.S. pursuers after sponsoring the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks was a festering frustration for the American public, and bringing him to justice dramatically improved Obama’s marks on keeping the country safe, with 73 percent now saying they’re confident in his ability to handle the terrorist threat.

The surge of approval spilled over to domestic issues, with 52 percent now saying they approve of Obama’s handling of the economy despite the slow recovery from the recession and continuing high unemployment.

The raid that took down bin Laden in Pakistan came shortly after the president took the offensive against the “birther” conspiracy by releasing his Hawai‘i birth certificate and stepped up his aggressiveness in battling Republicans on issues from the budget to immigration reform.

Public opinion is fickle and his standing with voters could go south again just as fast as it rose if he ends up on the unflattering end of the next big story.

But the timing of the latest surge couldn’t be better for Obama as he launches his campaign for re-election in 2012 that many considered hopeless after Republicans took firm control of the House and made major gains in the Senate.

He’s clearly trying to follow the pattern set by Bill Clinton in 1996 when he fought off a popular belief that he’d become irrelevant by deftly handling a similar GOP takeover of the House and cruising to easy re-election against a weak Republican field.

If Obama goes into the 2012 election strong, it would bode well for Democrats’ chances of keeping control of the Senate and have major implications in the Hawai‘i Senate race to replace the retiring Daniel Akaka.


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