Posted tagged ‘Mufi Hannemann’

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.

A U.S. Senate race for the ages

July 26, 2011

Somebody asked why I didn’t mention Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz yesterday when I ran down the list of possible candidates for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

Schatz has been included in the early speculation and he hasn’t said no, but a candidacy looks highly unlikely with initial polls showing that it would be an uphill battle for him.

The lieutenant governor wouldn’t have to resign to run for a federal office, but a weak showing in the Democratic primary would severely damage his personal political capital and could also be read as a repudiation of the Abercrombie administration.

Schatz has set himself up nicely to try to climb the political ladder to governor, and he’s not a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of guy who would risk it to enter a crowded Senate race as an underdog.

In one regard — age — Schatz would make sense as Hawai‘i’s next senator.

It takes time to build seniority in the Senate and Schatz, who turns 40 next year, would be about the same age as Daniel Inouye was when he was first elected to the Senate and started amassing the seniority that has served Hawai‘i so well.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, considered by some to be the Democratic frontrunner, would be 65 when inaugurated — about the same age as Akaka was when he was first appointed to the Senate. Some 20 years later with his age a concern at 86, Akaka still only has enough seniority to chair a relatively minor committee.

Of the other potential Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa would be 61 next year, former Rep. Ed Case 60 and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann 58. The likely Republican candidate, former Gov. Linda Lingle would be 59.

Schatz could serve two terms as lieutenant governor and two terms as governor and still run for the Senate at a younger age than any of the others are now, which says tons about the graying of Hawai‘i’s political leadership.

Hanabusa looking like a House candidate

July 25, 2011

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s new fundraising missive seems a pretty clear sign that she’ll defend her House seat next year rather than jump into the cowded race for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

An e-mail soliciting funds for her 2012 campaign didn’t exactly specify what office Hanabusa is seeking and she’s said she won’t make a formal decision until August, but the tone was clearly House-oriented.

She accused Speaker John Boehner and the Republican House majority of endangering Social Security, cutting health care, subsidizing big oil and threatening to shut down the government.

“Just imagine what Republicans will try if they control Congress in 2012,” she said. “I need your help to prevent that from happening.”

Hanabusa’s fellow U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case have entered the Senate Democratic primary and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is also looking at the primary in which the winner will likely face former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

Hanabusa let Hirono beat her to the punch, and the conventional wisdom is that two liberal women would split votes and throw the advantage to the moderate Case. If Hannemann turns the race four-way, it could become a crap shoot.

Hanabusa’s safe course would be to keep the House seat that took three tries to win and wait to run for the Senate when 86-year-old Sen. Daniel Inouye retires.

But it’s the winner of the Akaka seat who will ultimately succeed Inouye as the state’s senior senator, and the deciding issue could come down to which candidate voters see as best qualified to to pick up the heavy lifting Inouye has long provided in bringing home the bacon for Hawai‘i.

It would be ironic if Hanabusa ends up the odd candidate out, as she has the most proven record of the group as a legislative heavy-lifter.

In her 12 years in the state Senate, she held every major leadership position and was the first woman to serve as Senate president. She knows how to work the levers of legislative power.

Case influenced major legislation in the state House and rose to majority leader, but the leadership role didn’t suit him and he stepped down after only two years to operate as a dissident.

Hirono was never considered a major player during her years in the Legislature, and none of the three has served in Congress long enough to leave a significant mark.

For Hannemann and Lingle, the only legislative experience was at the county council level, where both were viewed as more interested in priming their runs for mayor than doing legislative grunt work.

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.

Don’t do it, Mufi

October 18, 2010

I’m hearing more rumblings that former Mayor Mufi Hannemann has been asking supporters if they think he should run for the West O‘ahu City Council seat being vacated by Todd Apo.

Most of those I’ve heard about have advised him not to run, and I hope he listens to them; it wouldn’t be good for him or the city.

The beating Hannemann took from Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for governor — he got only 35.8 percent of the vote on O‘ahu — was the harshest voter repudiation of a sitting elected official not involved in in a major scandal that I’ve ever seen.

He could conceivably lose a council race against a credible opponent, and that would likely end his political career. But even if he won, it would gain him little unless he’s desperate for the pay check.

After all the work he’s done to build up his credentials as a chief executive and a heavy hitter in local politics, it makes no sense to throw himself back to the bottom of the political food chain in a legislative role that didn’t suit him well the first time around.

In his previous service on the council from 1994 to 2000, either he was in charge or he was a disruptive dissident. When he was in charge, he disrupted the administration to the point that his colleagues felt they needed to depose him as chairman.

If Hannemann started the cycle again in the current environment with a new mayor and five new council members coming in, he would most likely wreak havoc and voters would say “same old Mufi.”

If his aim is to run for mayor or Congress in 2012 or have another try for governor in 2014, there would be no advantage in running from the council. It would just look like he was abandoning another job to serve his ambition. He’s an established player who doesn’t need a manini base like the council.

The primary defeat had to be bitter for Hannemann, but voters said pretty loud and clear that they don’t want him right back in their faces.

If he hopes to revive his political career and again contend for Hawai‘i’s  highest offices, he needs to take some time to properly reflect on why things went so wrong for him and how he can persuade voters that he learned something from the loss.

It’s an essential step that Hannemann couldn’t take from the war zone the council would likely become with him on it.

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.

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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.

HVCA, HCVA, VCAH: Where’s my Excedrin?

September 9, 2010

The Hawaii Venture Capital Association, which has endorsed Neil Abercrombie for governor, is officially accusing Mufi Hannemann supporters of “dirty tricks” for forming a rival Venture Capital Association of Hawaii to endorse Hannemann.

HVCA president Bill Spencer sent a cease and desist letter to the rival group, saying it’s linked to Hannemann campaign committee member Stanford Carr and “used an almost identical trade name specifically to mislead and confuse the public about HVCA’s legitimate endorsement of Neil Abercrombie.”

“Forming an organization using a substantially identical name to contradict HVCA’s political endorsement is in bad faith and a dirty trick of the Hannemann campaign,” he said.

Spencer disputed the new group’s claim that it’s an offshoot of HVCA made up of members disgruntled with the endorsement of Abercrombie, saying only one of the 10 members of VCAH ever belonged to HVCA. He said his board’s vote for Abercrombie was unanimous.

The matter is so convoluted that HVCA’s press release twice in the first two paragraphs transposed it’s own name to HCVA. I couldn’t follow it any further without getting a headache, but if you want chapter and verse you can find it here.


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