Council Chairman Ernie Martin has announced that he won’t run for Honolulu mayor, ending nearly two years of speculation over whether he would challenge incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell for that office.
Former Mayor Peter Carlisle, meanwhile, will challenge Caldwell.
Carlisle, who lost his reelection bid in the 2012 primary, filed papers today to run after announcing several weeks ago that he intends to reclaim the city’s top electoral post.
Martin, who would have needed to resign as the Council’s leader to run for mayor, cited the city’s problems on rail and homelessness as key reasons for his decision to stay put.
“I believe that this is the right course of action given the numerous challenges facing Honolulu,” a statement posted to Martin’s website read today. “I have taken the lead in ensuring that the rail project is accountable to how it spends our money and advocated for innovative and community-based solutions in addressing our homelessness crisis.”
“To step-aside for my personal ambitions at a time when these issues continue to demand true leadership would be selfish,” it further read.
Martin’s most recent filings with the state’s Campaign Spending Commission show that he had a campaign war chest of more than $492,000 as of Dec. 31 — funding that he could use in future races. Term limits will prohibit him from running for reelection to the Council in 2018. It remains to be seen what political plans he might have for the future. Martin wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday.
The Council chairman had previously acknowledged that he wanted to be mayor. In August 2014, after cruising handily to reelection, Martin posted a photo on social media of him posing with a large “Ernie Martin Mayor” sign.
Several days before posting that image, when asked whether he might run for mayor, Martin said that Caldwell had supported Martin’s opponents in recent years, and that “coming in 2016 I’ll be seriously looking to return the favor.”
Caldwell released a statement today on Martin’s decision: “I know it was a difficult decision to make, but I appreciate Chair Martin’s careful consideration and I look forward to working with him over the next two years that he will serve on the Council.”
The decision brings the mayoral race into slightly clearer focus on the eve of the deadline for candidates to file their papers and commit. It remains to be seen what former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona and former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou will do. Aiona has pulled papers for three races including mayor but hasn’t filed yet.