Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday that his chief executive experience as mayor of the state’s largest city would shape his campaign for governor, but his opponent, former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, dismissed that record as a failure.
Hannemann, who has been raising money and campaigning for more than a year, made his campaign official by resigning as mayor and entering the Democratic primary for governor at yesterday’s candidate filing deadline. He has given his six years as mayor a grade of A-minus and said he completed work on issues such as the environmental impact statement for the city’s rail project and a settlement with the federal government on sewage treatment.
"I wanted to make sure that when I left City Hall that no major decisions were still in the offing or that projects were not either pau or on its way," he told reporters at the state Office of Elections in Pearl City.
Hannemann, 56, said Abercrombie, 72, who has spent the past two decades in Congress, essentially wants to retire to Washington Place.
"This is his last job. He’s said that," he said. "This is going to be my best job. And I’m going to work very hard at it."
Abercrombie, at a news conference at his campaign headquarters at Ward Warehouse, graded Hannemann’s record and concluded the former mayor had failed. He said Hannemann unnecessarily fought with the governor over the environmental review on rail and bickered with the federal government over sewage treatment before agreeing to upgrades that will saddle residents with higher fees.
"If you run on your record, and the record is broken, then I think you have to account for it to the taxpayers," he said.
Abercrombie also claimed that Hannemann’s real aim is the U.S. Senate. He suggested the former mayor sees the governor’s office only as a steppingstone for his political ambition. Hannemann has said he intends to serve out a full four-year term if elected.
The two Democrats have been preparing for a primary against each other for more than a year, yet neither has fully outlined how they differ on public-policy issues. Their starkest differences have been over social issues such as civil unions, which Abercrombie favors and Hannemann opposes. They have instead chosen to place their campaigns on more subjective terrain: chief executive experience and collaborative skills for Hannemann; leadership and character for Abercrombie.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the leading Republican candidate for governor, said he believes he offers voters a clear alternative. "My candidacy gives the people of Hawaii a clear alternative to politics-as-usual," he said in a statement. "Both of my potential opponents are two peas in a pod. Either one would raise taxes and increase the cost of living for our working families and small businesses."
John Carroll, a former state lawmaker and a lawyer, is challenging Aiona in the GOP primary.
In the shadows of Abercrombie and Hannemann, several prominent Democrats are running in the primary for lieutenant governor. The candidates include former Democratic Party chairman and former state lawmaker Brian Schatz, former state Sen. Robert Bunda, state Sen. Norman Sakamoto, former state Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu and state Rep. Lyla Berg.
State House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan and lawyer and GOP activist Adrienne King are competing in the Republican primary.
Voters also will get to settle a likely rematch between U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa in urban Honolulu’s 1st Congressional District. Hanabusa first has a primary against lawyer and health care advocate Rafael del Castillo.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is running for re-election in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers portions of Central, Leeward and Windward Oahu and the neighbor islands. Former television reporter Ramsay Wharton and commercial airline pilot and Navy veteran John Willoughby are campaigning in the Republican primary.
All 51 state House seats and 13 of 25 state Senate seats also will be before voters. Just three state lawmakers—state Rep. Gene Ward (R, Kalama Valley-Queen’s Gate-Hawaii Kai); state Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Kaimuki-Waialae-Kahala); and state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R, Kailua-Kaneohe Bay)—are unopposed in both the September primary and November general election.
The filing period for the two open Senate seats created by Bunda and Hooser’s resignations was extended 10 days—to July 30—as required by state law when resignations occur so close to the filing deadline. Gov. Linda Lingle will appoint interim replacements, based on lists of recommendations by the Democratic Party, to fill the two Senate seats until November.
Democrats hold overwhelming majorities over Republicans in the state Legislature—45 to six in the House; 23 to two in the Senate—so the balance of power is unlikely to change in November. The challenge for Democrats is to channel their competing internal factions into a workable leadership model, while Republicans are fighting for survival and relevancy.
"Obviously, they still will have a pickle in terms of the budget. I’m hoping that the new Democratic Party governor will be able to do a heck of a lot better job of working with his colleagues in the House and Senate," said Dante Carpenter, Democratic Party chairman.
Two of the GOP’s top leaders—Finnegan, who is running for lieutenant governor; and state Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, who has chosen not to run for re-election—are leaving the Legislature, creating the possibility that the Republican ranks could shrink to a record low since statehood. There were only seven Republicans in the Legislature in 1993.
Carpenter said he believes Democrats are up to the responsibility of governing the Legislature and Washington Place after eight years under the Republican Lingle.
"We just think we have enough talent in our own house to solve most of the problems," he said. "It’s just a matter of doing it."
Jonah Kaauwai, the state GOP chairman, said Republicans hope to cut away at the Democrats in increments. The goal this year, he said, is to double the GOP’s presence in the House to 12 seats and the Senate to four.
Republicans have done a better job recruiting candidates. In 2008, the party failed to field candidates for more than two dozen House and Senate seats. This year, the party is sitting out only three House and Senate races. Democrats, meanwhile, passed on finding contenders to challenge three House Republican incumbents.