Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann strengthened his ties with labor yesterday, earning a key endorsement from the Hawaii Carpenters Union, which cited his chief executive experience and collaborative skills as reasons he should be governor.
The endorsement from the carpenters union, the state’s largest private-sector construction union with 7,000 members, will help Hannemann make the argument that he has broad support from the labor and business communities.
It was a disappointment to former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Hannemann’s opponent in the Democratic primary.
At a news conference at the union’s Kalihi headquarters, Ron Taketa, the union’s financial secretary and business representative, said, "It’s clear that we need a leader with the ability to bring people together and work on solutions. A leader with a proven record of supporting working families in Hawaii. And a leader, most of all, at this crucial point in our development, with executive experience who can make the hard decisions, the right decisions, to get Hawaii back on the road to recovery."
Polls have shown that Abercrombie fares well among traditional Democrats and union households, but Hannemann has been able to crack the former congressman’s hold on labor, winning important endorsements from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the United Public Workers.
John Hart, a communication professor at Hawaii Pacific University, said the primary poses a difficult decision for labor.
"On one hand, the congressman has been a friend of labor. On the other hand, the mayor, up until very recently, held all the contracts in his hands," Hart said.
Hannemann has the backing of prominent leaders from the business community. The labor endorsements help Hannemann complete the circle and send a message to the union and business executives still on the sidelines that he is the consensus choice.
"I think what it shows is that labor and business are looking to me to be the next governor," Hannemann said. "And it’s what is needed. Labor can’t do it alone. And you can’t just represent labor’s point of view. And you can’t just represent it from a business point of view.
"So I think this appeal is showing that I have the ability to bring people together."
Abercrombie has increasingly been describing Hannemann as a candidate of the status quo, a tool of establishment interests who will resist, not embrace, change. He said yesterday that rank-and-file carpenters and other union workers know he is the one loyal to labor.
"There’s old politics and there’s new politics," Abercrombie said. "I differentiate between those who have a political agenda of their own. That’s their business. I don’t hold grudges or have hard feelings about that.
"The membership, whether it’s the carpenters or anyone else in labor, in the various unions, they know who’s been their friend over the years. And they know who’s a friend of their children."
Abercrombie won the endorsement yesterday of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, an advocacy group for the technology industry. He would create a governor’s technology council and name a chief technology officer to improve government efficiency if elected.
"He has the ability and the credibility to support the growth of a strong tech economy. As governor, we believe Neil Abercrombie will help make Hawaii’s technology and clean-energy sectors a big part of the global marketplace," Bill Spencer, the group’s president, said at a news conference at Blue Planet Software downtown.