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EditorialOn Politics

The race is on and already negative ads are out front

How often does a piece of snail mail go viral?

The first real bit of traction in the governor’s race is Mufi Hannemann’s Friday the 13th attack on Democratic opponent Neil Abercrombie. Flashing Hannemann’s trademark Iolani colors, red and black, the former mayor’s mailer asked all registered voters to "compare and decide."

Compare their wives, compare their high schools and even compare what kind of awards they win.

It lit up the campaign.

Hannemann seemed to be saying his birthplace, his wife’s Japanese surname, his Harvard undergraduate degree and his Honolulu Magazine ranking as "Best Public Official" were the only reasons voters needed to pick him.

"It doesn’t make you feel good if you think this is what it takes to win us over," says one long-time local Democrat.

Local-boy politics is not exclusive to Hawaii elections, but folks in Hawaii can understand how dangerous it is to divide people by ancestry and origin.

A former executive in the administrations of Govs. John Waihee and George Ariyoshi says the glossy, heavy-stock mailer was raising the ire of voters all over town.

"There were two older folks in front of me at McDonald’s talking about it. One was saying ‘What’s wrong with UH? It was good enough for us.’ And the other says, ‘Why does he always have to brag?’" my friend reported.

The Republicans seized on it.

Dylan Nonaka, GOP executive director, went on television to say, "Mufi Hannemann has made a career of personally attacking and tearing down his opponents."

Someone who knows about getting worked over with political ads is former Democratic Congressman Ed Case, who contends he lost the special election to replace Abercrombie when his campaign "was the focus of well over $1 million of negative ads in just the last month of the campaign from both of my opponents and their supporters."

Negative advertising drives out issue ads because "going negative" works, Case says, adding that it is part of a Hannemann campaign.

"Hannemann is more disposed than any Hawaii candidate in a generation to negative campaigning … He and his supporters will probably spend well over $1 million in the next few weeks purely in attack ads to bury Abercrombie in an offensive onslaught," Case said in an interview.

The Hannemann campaign has said it is standing by all the comparisons raised in the mailer, noting they are all factually correct.

As Case notes, negative ads "unquestionably work and will continue to work unless and until voters say ‘no mas.’"

Before that happens, the Abercrombie campaign, fearing that a Hannemann negative blowout will hurt, is asking voters to pull an absentee ballot and vote before Hannemann resorts to comparing who got the most Boy Scout merit badges.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.


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