Posted tagged ‘Mufi Hannemann’

Mufi and Neil make their case

August 30, 2010

Some quick impressions of the Mufi Hannemann/Neil Abercrombie debate:

  • The “showdown” hype, razzmatazz and cheering that Hawaii News Now favors in its debates is distracting and creates an annoying WWE atmosphere. Allowing booing and jeering by partisans in the audience without trying to control it until it was too late was unconscionable.
  • Hannemann’s delivery was smoother in constantly coming back to his themes of Hawai‘i values, collaboration and managerial experience. His gigs delivering extemporaneous patter on the radio clearly paid off. Abercrombie started off stiff, choppy and at times fumbling for notes in depicting himself as an agent of change and a fighter for the little guy, but he seemed to find more of a groove after the break.
  • The furor over Hannemann’s negative “Compare & Decide” ad is having a clear impact on the campaign. Both brought their indoor voices and a determination to play nice. The questions they asked each other and some of the answers were pointed, but they actually threw some compliments each others’ way and the seething hostility we’ve seen in the past wasn’t as evident.
  • Hannemann’s measured tone had some success in defanging himself after Ed Case’s description of him as a bully and “the most dangerous politician in a generation,” but it was partly undone by his supporters’ rude heckling of Abercrombie. Hannemann could have scored points by telling them to cool it when the moderators didn’t. Hannemann’s careful modulation gave Abercrombie an opening to outdo him on passion.
  • I’m always struck by how poorly candidates do when given a chance to directly question opponents. The question is usually more of a speech that often leaves the other guy an easy out or even a chance to turn the tables. With all the lawyers and ex-journalists these candidates have on staff, you’d think somebody could instruct them on how to build a Mike Wallace-style “gotcha” that nails the opposition.

Bottom line: Both candidates succeeded in underscoring their campaign themes for undecided voters, but there was little new ground broken, no defining moments and certainly no knockout punches.


Governor’s race goes to church

August 29, 2010

Republican Chairman Jonah Ka’auwai has launched an aggressive push to counter Mufi Hannemann’s courtship of Christian conservatives who support Republican James “Duke” Aiona.

In a lengthy message to the Hawai’i Christian Coalition, endorsed by coalition state chairman Garret Hashimoto, Ka’auwai accused the Hannemann campaign of acting “unethically, immorally, and far below reproach” in its efforts to get church-goers to pull Democratic ballots in the primary and support Hannemann over Neil Abercrombie.

The message is full of biblical references and exposes the strong religious undercurrent of the governor’s race that has received little public attention as Aiona and Hannemann battle for the Christian vote. The Ka’auwai message is being well-circulated online and could spotlight the issue for a broader audience. (You can read the full message here.)

Ka’auwai’s message, addressed to “Pastors and Brothers/Sisters in Jesus Christ,” accused Hannemann and his surrogates of making appearances in churches to persuade worshippers “that Christians should vote in September 18th’s primary election on the Democrat ballot for Mufi Hannemann to retard the chances of a Neil Abercrombie win rather than supporting Duke Aiona through both the primary and general elections.”

“For the Body of Christ to think Duke Aiona will lose to either Neil Abercrombie or Mufi Hannemann in the general election is not a church operating in FAITH but operating in FEAR,” Ka’auwai wrote. “The Hannemann campaign’s strategy is a trap of lies and baited deception and is being fueled by that very FEAR! DO NOT BE DECEIVED!!!”

Other excerpts:

When Ken Wong (of the Hannemann campaign committee) or Mufi approach or call you, you must probe, uncover their plans of conquest that have no righteous intent and rebuke them for trying to use your church as a platform for their deception and your personal influence to further unrighteousness.

Duke will win because the Church has been behind him the entire time operating in the POWER and the AUTHORITY of the NAME OF JESUS! We are the HEAD and not the tail; we are the VICTORS not the victims! If Duke Aiona does not win it will be the burden of the Body of Christ to bear so rather than preparing to have to deal with either Mufi or Neil winning the Church, we should be preparing for Duke to WIN. Neither Mufi Hannemann nor Neil Abercrombie is righteous and a vote for either in the primary or general election is succumbing to fear and advancing unrighteousness!


Galatians 5:22 tells us the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Has anyone seen that kind of fruit through Mufi Hannemann? Ask Ken why he endorses a man whose fruit shows no signs of righteousness or being controlled by the Holy Spirit. At many levels, Mufi is worse than Neil.


Duke Aiona’s Campaign for Governor is the Body of Christ’s opportunity to operate in the AUTHORITY and to be proactive. The Primary Election is the first step to bringing back a righteous leader to the highest office in this State which has not been seen since Queen Lili’uokalani. Over 100 years ago! With more than 400,000 Christians in the State of Hawaii, WE are responsible no matter what the outcome of Duke’s race because we have been given the POWER and the AUTHORITY in the NAME OF JESUS!!!!

Ka’auwai makes an exception to his warnings against crossovers in House District 33, where he urges Christian Republicans to take Democratic ballots and vote for civil unions opponent Gary Okino against Rep. Blake Oshiro, the author of HB 444.

UPDATE: Duke Aiona issued the following statement:

“While faith is a central part of my life, I’m running for Governor to serve all the people of Hawai‘i – regardless of their religion.

“The goal of our grassroots campaign is to connect with every citizen in every community of this great state, and Chairman Ka‘auwai’s personal comments are seen by many as divisive.

“Our campaign is focused on families, friends and neighbors of all backgrounds, and we’re going to continue to reach out to all the citizens of Hawai‘i.”

I also asked Jonah Ka’auwai for clarification of what he meant when he said Aiona would be Hawai’i’s first “righteous leader” since Lili’uokalani. He sent this response:

“This letter was sent out as a private email to Christian Pastors not intended for publication. Upon reflection, I can see that some of my words carry implications which I did not intend. I did not intend to make a broad-brush judgment about all of Hawaii’s Governors, Republican or Democrat.”

Abercrombie enters mailer wars

August 26, 2010

Neil Abercrombie’s latest campaign mailer landed in the box yesterday and it couldn’t be more different from opponent Mufi Hannemann’s controversial “Compare and Decide” shot at Abercrombie’s mainland birth, haole wife, UH degrees and record in Congress.

Abercrombie’s piece makes no mention of his opponent. It features a picture of him in a nice suit with well-trimmed hair and beard, seeking to neutralize opposition attempts to paint him as an anarchistic hippie from his younger appearance.

It promises a leadership style based on respect for others, courage, commitment and common values and briefly highlights his policy proposals for energy, agriculture, education and government transparency.

Abercrombie ends by politely asking residents for their votes and thanking them for their consideration.

It’s the kind of vanilla effort that normally wouldn’t get much attention except for the earlier Hannemann piece; in that context, it reads like an Abercrombie salvo asking voters to “compare and decide” on personal style.

Many political consultants favor negative ads because they think they deliver more votes. This race could shape up as an interesting test of that.

Caldwell, Hannemann smarting from Kalihi tax flap

August 24, 2010

Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell is struggling to get on top of the stealth rezonings that have raised the property taxes of 250 O’ahu residents, mostly in Kalihi, by more than 300 percent.

The outcry could affect the Sept. 18 election chances of both Caldwell and former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who handed his former managing director the mayor’s job — and the tax problem — when he resigned to run for governor.

The issue is the surprise reclassification of apartments and homes from residential to commercial and industrial. In one case cited by the Star-Advertiser, a Stanley Street resident saw his bill go up from $2,335 last year to $10,552.

Many of the residents are elderly and some have lived in their homes more than 50 years; with all the confusion and payments already due, they have few options.

It’s disturbing how Caldwell and Hannemann have deflected responsibility for the hardship these people are suffering, saying it was a decision by anonymous tax assessors and not a policy call by the administration.

The last time I looked, the mayor and managing director had oversight authority for city bureaucrats, and either they were asleep at the wheel or chose not to head off this disaster for the homeowners to squeeze out a few more property tax dollars at their expense.

City Council members say they were never notified of the changes by the administration and certainly would have done something to provide relief if they had known.

What the administration is missing with its technocratic tap dancing — and council members and others in the community are seeing clearly with their outrage — is that you just don’t treat people this way.

Affected residents apparently have no recourse this tax year except to ask the city for a “structured tax payment plan” and have only until September 1 to apply for a waiver next year.

Both Caldwell and some council members are floating bills to refund the excess taxes, but homeowners would have to pay now and hope to get their money back later.

That’s just plain chicken, and creative leadership would have found a fair resolution before it became a crisis for these folks.

Compare and Decide II

August 20, 2010

A couple of days ago I raised the question of whether Mufi Hannemann blundered with his “Compare and Decide” mailer that denigrated Neil Abercrombie’s mainland birth, haole wife, UH education and congresstional record — and the answer appears to be a clear yes.

Hannemann spent much of tonight’s televised debate, which may be the most important of the campaign, defending the mailer and expressing “regret” to those it may have offended.

Earlier in the day, the former Honolulu mayor took hits over the piece from both Sen. Daniel Inouye and Gov. Linda Lingle in interviews on KITV.

Inouye expressed disapproval at targeting an opponent’s wife that way, saying, “To say that my wife is Japanese and yours is something else, that’s not nice.”

He said making haole vs. non-haole comparisons can backfire, noting, “You have to keep in mind that some people might resent that.”

Lingle said, “I think the stuff Hannemann did step over the line by saying, ‘Vote for me because I look like you.’ ”

The Inouye rebuke had to be stinging for Hannemann, who has traded heavily on the fact that the senator encouraged him to run.

Inouye, who expresses a strong preference for positive campaigning, deserves credit for taking a leadership role in trying to get this election that is so vital to the Democratic Party and the state on a more productive track. He’s hosting a unity event Saturday at Washington Middle School, with Hannemann and Abercrombie both invited.

The controversy has clearly given the Abercrombie campaign a lift, and it’ll be interesting to see if it changes Hannemann’s plans for the last month of campaign, when he’s been expected to use his big lead in funding to launch a major advertising blitz, including a fair amount of negative advertising.


Today’s “flASHback” in the Star-Advertiser: “Candidates count on plans to win the state’s top job.”

Compare and Decide: Did Mufi blunder?

August 18, 2010

A political candidate should be concerned about the effectiveness of his campaign mailers when his opponent is circulating them as heavily as he is.

That’s the case with Mufi Hannemann’s “Compare and Decide” sheet that landed in local mailboxes over the weekend.

I received three in the mail for each of the registered voters in the household — and a half-dozen by e-mail from Neil Abercrombie partisans, with “Can you believe this!” notes attached.

I didn’t find the piece especially offensive as mudslinging goes, just a bit juvenile and cartoonish in its Atomic Monkey approach to belittling Abercrombie as a haole hippie whose greatest accomplishment was winning a beard contest.

I can’t imagine it swinging many votes Hannemann’s way that weren’t his anyway, and it might turn off some undecided voters; hence the Abercrombie campaign’s aggressiveness in helping to circulate it.

Abercrombie got a story in the newspaper and good play on all three TV newscasts lecturing Hannemann that “this is not what a governor does; this is not what people want from a governor.”

He was particularly incensed that the mailer asked voters to compare the candidates’ wives, with no apparent point other than that Abercrombie married a haole and Hannemann didn’t.

Hannemann’s slim 2004 victory for mayor over the late Duke Bainum was due in part to a  late attack by a conservative website on Bainum’s wife. It appears the Abercrombie campaign is guarding against history repeating itself.
I look further at the role of race in Hawai’i politics in my column in today’s  Star-Advertiser, “Politicians need to get over the plantation-era bigotry.”

Hannemann still dogged by Pittsburgh

August 13, 2010

Now that the Campaign Spending Commission has ruled on the infractions involved in Mufi Hannemann’s Pittsburgh fundraiser, fining the campaign $225 and a campaign worker $100, I’m still having trouble getting too bothered by what the commission said were relatively minor paperwork violations.

While traveling to Washington on city business, the former mayor took a side trip to Pittsburgh for a campaign fundraiser sponsored by a rail consultant, with donations of $500 to $5,000 suggested.

His public schedule was unclear, campaign officials seemed confused and required notifications weren’t filed with the Campaign Spending Commission. Hannemann tried to end the controversy by saying he wouldn’t take the money raised.

It’s of some concern that the Hannemann signature on the notice of intent to hold the event wasn’t actually Hannemann’s and that the campaign worker involved was Hannemann’s former Police Commission chair, Christine Camp, but filing paperwork incorrectly or late is hardly a major transgression; the rival Neil Abercrombie campaign was recently fined $50 for reporting a fundraiser incorrectly.

Suggestions that Hannemann had no real city business in Washington seemed answered when he brought home federal approval of the city’s rail environmental impact statement.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it corrupts our democracy when those who have or seek government contracts provide major funding for political campaigns. But as long as the law apparently allows it, I don’t see the difference if the cash changes hands in Honolulu or Pittsburgh. The other candidates have held their own mainland fundraisers.

In one potentially interesting aside, Honolulu attorney John McLaren, who has targeted Hannemann with other complaints, is asking U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni, state Attorney General Mark Bennett and acting City Prosecutor Douglas Chin to investigate the legality of Hannemann’s Pittsburgh fundraiser hosted by Paul Overby, a former executive of Bombardier, a potential bidder for the $230 million contract to provide the rail cars for the city’s transit system.

If any of the the law enforcers take up the investigation my interest level will rise considerably, but the complaint appears scattershot and speculative at this point.

Mufi embraces Superferry

July 27, 2010

An intriguing part of Mufi Hannemann’s economic plan in his campaign for governor is a proposal to bring the Superferry back to Hawai’i.

He didn’t flesh out the idea, saying only, “Restore the Superferry. Do it right with environmental protections and an EIS. Don’t waste the taxpayers’ investment.”

As appealing as it may seem to supporters of the short-lived interisland ferry service that was taken down by environmental protests and adverse court rulings, it’s difficult to see it happening.

No private investors in their right minds would invest significantly in the venture after seeing the original Hawaii Superferry’s $300 million investment flushed down the toilet in a capricious legal and regulatory climate.

Public opposition in some quarters on Maui and Kaua’i seems as insurmountable as ever, and the Superferry failed to meet its passenger and vehicle traffic projections in the time it operated before dismantling the company  in bankruptcy proceedings.

A reborn Superferry would likely require heavy state involvement and steep public subsidies. So in essence, after running out of town the private operators who proposed to pay their own way, we’d come back with ferries floated on the backs of taxpayers.

Only in Hawai’i.

Politics by cheap attack

July 13, 2010

In a continuing attempt to discourage organized anonymous attack politics, I’ve been checking on a new group that’s popped up on Facebook called “Hawaii Residents Against Mufi.”

It’s run by an anonymous creator who goes by the alias “Anyone But Mufi” and says it’s “dedicated to preventing Mufi Hannemann from becoming Governor in 2010.”

It has 17 members, including state Republican chairman Jonah Kaauwai.

I sent the following message to the anonymous creator: “Would you please let me know your name so I can interview you about your ‘Hawaii Residents Against Mufi’ page and how you justify this anonymous character assassination that is dragging down politics in Hawai’i. How is this different from the Atomic Monkey site that the Hannemann campaign is taking heat for? If you want to take a stand, fine, but why not have the spine to back it up with your name?”

I received a response that refused to give give the creator’s name, saying, “This is strictly an opinionated page. If Mufi found out my real identity, he would bully around and make sure that no one would hire me for future employment.”

That’s the same lame excuse I used to get when I tried to track down similar anonymous anti-Hannemann sites during the 2008 mayoral race and transit referendum.

So I queried Kaauwai through the Republican Party, asking, “Could you please tell me who ‘Anyone But Mufi’ is so I can interview him? I’d also be interested to know how you justify lending your support to these anonymous attack sites that are degrading politics in Hawai’i? Is there any reason you shouldn’t be subject to the same criticism Hannemann chair Dean Okimoto got for being a fan of the Atomic Monkey group? Does your association with ‘Anyone But Mufi’ mean Neil (Abercrombie) can claim you as a supporter in the primary?”

Kaauwai didn’t answer me, but posted a query on the group asking, “Chris aren’t you the author and administrator of this group? Why have you gone anonymous?”

Kaauwai went on to post a video of himself warning that HB 444 will resurface next year unless more Republicans are elected to Legislature.

These anonymous sites reach few people, preach mostly to the converted and have yet to have much impact on the outcome of elections, but it’s a dishonorable form of politicking that warrants vigilant scrutiny.

Update: I received a reply from Jonah Kaauwai, who said he joined the group at the invitation of an individual he knew and assumed was named as the creator of the site.

He said he’s made inquiries about who created the site and why it was taken anonymous, which he considers “cowardly,” and will leave the group if the creator remains anonymous.

Some candidates for governor we can like

July 13, 2010

Surprise, they’re the three leading contenders we already have — James “Duke” Aiona, Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie.

So says David Thielen (son of Cynthia, brother of Laura), a Hawaii ex-pat now living in Colorado who did interviews with the three candidates for the Huffington Post that are interesting reading and listening.

Distance often has the advantage of perspective, and the perspective Thielen brings is that he finds a lot to like about all three candidates. We here in Hawaii who are bombarded by the daily give and take often see only things to dislike.

I found it telling that people with loyalties to the different campaigns suggested  I check out these interviews. They all thought their guys came across well, and they mostly did.

Thielen can be a little wide-eyed, but if you don’t like his summaries of the interviews, he provides links to the recordings so you can listen to the candidates for yourself.

All in all, a good way to get an early take on the substance of these men who seek to guide our future — and to start raising the political discourse to a higher level.

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