Honolulu mayoral candidate Charles Djou scored endorsements Monday from five organized labor unions that had backed incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell in two previous bids.
The head of one of those unions is a key figure in the midst of the controversial debate over the future of the city’s rail project.
Damien Kim, business manager and financial secretary for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1186, is also vice chairman of the Honolulu Authority for Rail Transportation board. Kim was appointed to the HART board by City Council Chairman Ernie Martin when it was formed in July 2011.
The other four unions supporting Djou are the Plumbers and Fitters Union Local 875, the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 132, the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 126 and IBEW Local 1260.
The mayor’s race is nonpartisan, but the endorsements are the first that Djou, a Republican and former U.S. representative, has received from major labor organizations since he was an incumbent running unopposed for a Council seat in 2006. Caldwell is a Democrat.
“The support here from these major labor organizations shows that our campaign is broad-based,” said Djou, surrounded by union officials during a news conference at his Kalihi headquarters. “We are building a coalition of unions and families from Kaneohe to Kapolei, from Haleiwa to Hawaii Kai, to turn around and restore a sense of trust that is so desperately missing at Honolulu Hale.”
Reggie Castanares, business manager and financial secretary-treasurer of the Plumbers and Fitters Union, said, “We want to bring that communication that was lost, and trust, between the executive branch and legislative branch. We need to do things more transparently. What we see in Charles Djou is fiscal accountability.”
Kim said his union is disappointed with Caldwell because campaign promises, such as some of those pertaining to the rail project, were not delivered.
After the news conference, Kim said the progress of the now $8 billion rail project frustrates him. “The people voted for a whole system, going to Ala Moana,” he said. “It is frustrating that the way it looks now, the talks now are to stop it at Middle Street based on costs.”
The mayor who once took credit for the progress of the project is now backpedaling and blaming others for its skyrocketing costs, Kim said.
Caldwell until now had gathered the bulk of the labor endorsements. Those who back the incumbent include the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Hawaii Longshore Division, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Local 996, Ironworkers Local 625, the Hawaii Sheet Metal Workers and the umbrella, 15,000-strong Hawaii Construction Alliance.
Also challenging Caldwell is former Mayor Peter Carlisle, who finished third during the August 2012 runoff election and was eliminated from contention while former Gov. Ben Cayetano and Caldwell advanced.