Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Hannemann campaign tests whether size really matters

By David Shapiro


This year's race for governor of Hawaii is proving to be a test of whether bigger really is better, with Democratic candidate Mufi Hannemann pressing the campaign on every front like a true believer in the value of living large.

At 6 feet 7, Hannemann is more than a foot taller than his Democratic rival, Neil Abercrombie, and makes sure everybody knows it with a tag line on his TV ads that proclaims, "Standing tall for all of us."

He mostly campaigns by just his first name in the manner of the biggest superstars in sports and entertainment.

He's got a big truck dubbed the "Mufi-mobile" rolling around town with his billboard-sized name and picture emblazoned on the sides.

His yard signs and fence banners are bigger and more numerous than nearly everybody else's, to the point that his face is seldom out of view when you're on the road.

Hannemann has the endorsements of the biggest power brokers, and their donations have given him the biggest campaign bankroll.

He's got not one, but two of the biggest names in local public relations acting as his campaign spokespeople.

His events are on a grand scale compared with his opponents: A rally in Hilo over the weekend drew nearly 3,000 people to the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium with a big concert by Amy Hanaiali'i and the traditional stew-and-rice political dinner supersized to steak plates.

He was accused of acting like he was bigger than the Democratic Party by throwing a pig party of his own to entice state convention delegates away from platform committee meetings.

Hannemann's campaign was relatively subdued—for him—until he resigned as Honolulu mayor July 20 and officially entered the race.

Since he came roaring out of the gate, it's seemed at times like he's the only guy in the room, sucking up so much of the air that opponents Abercrombie and Republican James "Duke" Aiona are left gasping for attention.

Hannemann, billing himself as "the only candidate with executive experience," is running like a confident incumbent, controlling the race and dictating the agenda.

Unless Abercrombie and Aiona find a way to compete with his big footprint, the contest could turn into a referendum on Mufi Hannemann, and the last time that happened in his mayoral re-election two years ago, he won big with 56 percent of the vote against Ann Kobayashi.

The big question this time is whether voters will be swept away by what the Hannemann campaign is calling the "Mufi Express" or turned off by the flaunting of excess in austere times.

With his outsize face looking back at you nearly everywhere you turn, he's got to be careful of a Kim Jong Il effect that could backfire.

David Shapiro can be reached at or


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