The candidates say they are going all out to snag the City Hall post in the first vote
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 08, 2012
The candidates in Honolulu's hotly contested mayoral race say they are making their last push for votes, sign-waving, shaking hands and otherwise pounding the pavement given the saturated media market in the final days before the primary election Saturday.
The campaigns of former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Mayor Peter Carlisle and former city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell say they are aiming to win the seat outright in the primary and are not holding back resources for the general election. None would disclose exactly how much they are spending in advertising, given that the race is down to the wire, but they are competing for media airtime and space online and in print with high-profile candidates for seats in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House.
A significant number of votes has already been cast by mail and walk-in ballots, and any drama that occurs unexpectedly is not likely to change the outcome, a veteran political observer says.
Even the fresh health issues surrounding front-runner Cayetano, who was released from the hospital Tuesday evening, are unlikely to move the needle, said Neil Milner, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"It certainly isn't going to change the minds of people who are anti-rail," Milner said Tuesday. "They don't really have any other alternative. I don't think it's going to make any difference."
Symptoms of a bleeding ulcer sent Cayetano to the Queen's Medical Center this week. He was released at 5 p.m. Tuesday and is expected to fully recover.
Based on recent polls, including the Hawaii Poll conducted for the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, Cayetano is expected to handily receive the most votes in the primary. Incumbent Carlisle and Caldwell will battle for second place and to see if together their two pro-rail campaigns can deny Cayetano the more than 50 percent of votes he needs for an outright victory.
Unless one candidate can get more than 50 percent, the top two finishers will face off in the general election in November. The Hawaii Poll had Carlisle and Caldwell in a statistical dead heat, well behind Cayetano.
"I think probably, right now, the pro-rail interests groups are just primarily interested in making sure Cayetano doesn't get 50 percent plus one so they can regroup," Milner said.
The latest health issue isn't likely to give Cayetano a bump, he added.
"It's not dramatic enough, I think, for a sympathy vote," he said. "It's obviously not good to have a bleeding ulcer, but it isn't anything that's melodramatic enough to shift (voters), and people are not likely to change their mind at this stage from one candidate to another.
"There may be some undecideds but they're certainly a small percentage."
That leaves Carlisle and Caldwell vying for second place.
Although neither campaign disclosed the exact strategy behind their media buys this week, both said they planned vigorous efforts to the very end.
"We're spending to win," said Glenna Wong, spokeswoman for Caldwell's camp. He plans to continue getting out into the community and so more sign-waving, as he has throughout the campaign, she said.
"I think that people are very receptive to his message, which is people are looking for someone that can manage the city much better," she said. "Really, it's about managing the city much better. It's not just about rail; it's about all the issues that face us."
Caldwell on Tuesday picked up his 20th union endorsement, earning the backing of the 6,000-member Hawaii Teamsters & Allied Workers Union Local 996.The union represents members in Hawaii and Guam and includes bus drivers, hospital employees, cement workers, transportation industry mechanics, laundry workers and bakery employees, among others.
Carlisle also plans to do more media in the final days.
"Our plan is to continue to communicate with voters on many different levels the facts that under Mayor Carlisle's leadership over the past 20 months Honolulu has seen its finances stabilized in the worse economy in a generation, the mayor voluntarily cut his own salary by 15 percent to share in the sacrifice and increased city revenue and services without a tax increase," the campaign said in a statement. "We are confident that residents recognize all that Mayor Carlisle has done and will vote on election day to allow him to continue to lead our city."
According to the latest reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission, Caldwell raised the most during the first three weeks of July — $273,650, including a $50,000 personal loan to his campaign. He has raised $875,500 overall and had more than $133,300 in cash on hand.
Carlisle raised $101,200 in July and has brought in more than $739,300 overall. The mayor had $118,000 in cash on hand.
As in 2010, when he lost to Carlisle in a special election, Caldwell has had to spend most of his resources in raising his name recognition. The campaign appears to have worked as Caldwell's support in the most recent Hawaii Poll was 25 percent, compared with 16 percent in February. Carlisle was at 27 percent, down from 35 percent in the previous poll, and Cayetano was steady at 44 percent in both.
"Caldwell's in an interesting position," Milner said. "Even after running for mayor last time, I think he's still relatively unknown, even in name recognition compared to the other two. Which means, just as he did in the first mayoral race he ran in, it takes him some time to get people aware of him, and then he starts doing pretty well and I think that's partly what's happening in this race."
Cayetano raised more than $57,500 in July and has collected more than $950,500 overall. The former governor had more than $315,550 in cash on hand.
Although he previously said he was aiming to use all of his resources toward an outright victory in the primary, he has been unable to do so on airwaves that have been saturated in the run-up to Saturday.