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Major Honolulu mayoral campaigns halt or slow down

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Major candidates for Honolulu mayor say they’ve either halted altogether or severely curtailed their campaign activities in response to the warnings about person-to-person contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa announced Tuesday that she is suspending all campaign activities effective immediately.

Fellow candidates Keith Amemiya, Rick Blangiardi, Choon James and Kym Pine all said they are doing so as well.

Hanabusa’s campaign said among the events it is canceling are grassroots meetings at her Kalihi campaign headquarters as well as three fundraisers planned through April.

The campaign said it will reschedule the events when health officials determine it’s safe to hold public gatherings.

“Our first responsibility is to protect our volunteers and all those who may choose to attend a campaign activity, large or small,” Hanabusa said.

Amemiya said his campaign began canceling gatherings last week “as our way of preventing community spread and putting health over politics.”

That includes all fundraisers, talk-story sessions, group canvassing and sign-waving, he said. A scheduled April 4 opening of his campaign headquarters also has been canceled, he said. “The campaign continues, but in ways that will be different from traditional campaigning.”

Amemiya, the only candidate who has been running television ads, also told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that his spots were being halted as of Tuesday “out of respect” for the severity of the coronavirus situation.

Pine, an incumbent Council member, said in addition to canceling all campaign events and other activities last week, members of both her campaign and Council staff started working remotely and telecommuting last week, making it necessary to close both offices, she said.

Among the events she has canceled are “meet and greets, fundraising, door-to-door and sign-waving activities,” she said. She also has ordered her campaign office professionally cleaned and sanitized, and “will have antibacterial filters installed, air conditioning ducts cleaned and hand sanitizers … stationed throughout the office.”

“This is going to be a different type of election than we have ever experienced, so we need to refocus our priorities,” Pine said.

Blangiardi, a recently retired television executive, said his campaign last week made the decision to cancel a major March 25 fundraiser as well as several coffee hours.

“But we are doing everything possible in preparation for our campaign,” he said.

“We are in constant contact via email, phone or text with each member of our core team on a myriad of campaign issues from finalizing our campaign headquarters, fundraising, communicating with our supporters, finalizing our media strategy, newsletters, thank you letters etc., not the least of which is keeping fully apprised on the decisions being made regarding COVID-19, and how it will likely impact our campaign,” Blangiardi said in a text message.

James, a community activist and real estate agent, said a pizza party was canceled Saturday but that she is otherwise continuing her campaign via social media.

“We are sharing useful information with our friends on Facebook,” James said via text. Additionally, “we’re monitoring important issues at city hall and sharing with the public.”

The Hauula resident noted that at least two of the confirmed positive cases for novel coronavirus involved someone employed at Kualoa Ranch and a Colorado woman who attended a conference at Turtle Bay Resort. “We feel (we) are close to this,” James said.

The deadline to file to run for office this year is June 2.

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