Honolulu voters have just less than two months to decide who should serve the final two years of Mufi Hannemann’s term as mayor.
|Donovan Dela Cruz|
The City Council, meeting yesterday in special session, set the Sept. 18 primary election as the day to hold special elections to fill both the mayor’s unfinished term and the vacancy created in the city Prosecutor’s Office by the resignation of Peter Carlisle, who also had two years remaining in office.
Carlisle is among five who are running for mayor, along with acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell, City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, University of Hawaii engineering professor Panos Prevedouros and City Councilman Rod Tam.
The filing deadline for candidates in both races is next Friday.
Council members debated whether to set the special winner-take-all elections with the Nov. 2 general election but ultimately settled on the earlier vote for both contests.
Supporters of having the vote with the primary argued voters have the right to be represented by elected officials, versus acting appointees, as soon as possible. They were countered by some members who felt pushing the vote back to November would ensure a greater turnout and allow voters more time to learn about the candidates and their positions on issues.
"The history and the intent of the law has been upheld," said Carlisle, who called himself the front-runner. "The intent is to have the people have an elected representative for them as quickly as possible and not an appointed one."
In a statement, Caldwell applauded the vote by the Council.
"Our campaign looks forward to a vigorous discussion of the most pressing issues that are facing Honolulu, and we’re working hard to make sure that on Sept. 18 the voters will have enough information to make an informed choice," he said.
The vote on the mayor’s race was 5-2, after Dela Cruz and Tam excused themselves from the vote, noting their intention to seek the office.
Dela Cruz excused himself but noted the circumstances mirrored 1994, when two Council members sought to run in a special mayoral election but still participated in the vote on setting the special election, which was held with the primary that year.
"We’re going to work hard to get our message out," Dela Cruz said. "We just want the public to win. That’s the main thing — that they hear us, that they compare all the candidates to see who really has the experience, and I believe I’m that person."
Tam said he would move forward with his campaign regardless of the date.
"My campaign staff and volunteers are ready to go," he said. "I had plans for both the primary and general election."
Prevedouros also applauded the primary date, saying he would continue to push forward with his anti-rail agenda.
"The mayor special election is yet another referendum on the rail project against the tremendous liabilities that have accumulated for the city," he said in an e-mailed statement. "We are ready to move Oahu in a positive direction instead of framing it to fail."
Hannemann resigned Tuesday to pursue a run for Hawaii governor.