Political newcomer Keith Amemiya’s mayoral campaign Thursday scored the endorsement of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest public-sector union.
It’s the first big endorsement for Amemiya, the onetime executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association and, until recently, an insurance executive.
HGEA represents 41,000 largely white-collar state and city employees.
Earlier this month the 2,000-member State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers endorsed retired television executive Rick Blangiardi for mayor.
Blangiardi and Amemiya are both making their first runs for elective office.
Both endorsements are significant. SHOPO already has begun running television ads supporting Blangiardi. HGEA’s support also comes with an army of volunteers for sign-waving and other duties.
Other major announced candidates include former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, City Councilwoman Kym Pine and businesswoman- activist Choon James.
HGEA endorsed Hanabusa in her unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018.
Likely anticipating questions about why the union is not sticking with Hanabusa, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira said of Amemiya, “He brings a very fresh perspective to government. It is not one burdened by politics of the past.”
Union officials said issues raised by the current coronavirus pandemic also played a role in the selection made by HGEA’s political action committees.
Justin Lam, a registered nurse and PAC member, said Amemiya made clear that worker and community health was a top priority. “Personally, as a registered nurse, my co-workers and I appreciate that he understands how health and safety measures need to balanced with plans to reopen the economy.”
The deadline to file to run is Tuesday.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell will finish his second consecutive term at the end of the year and is barred from seeking a third.
The primary election day is Aug. 8, but this year’s Hawaii elections will be the first to use an “all mail” format. All registered voters should expect to receive their ballots in the mail by July 21 or shortly thereafter.
Under the Honolulu City Charter, elections are held in a nonpartisan manner. Those seeking an elected city office run off against each other on primary election day. If the top vote- getter does not finish with a majority of the actual votes cast in the election, the top two finishers go head-to-head in the Nov. 3 general election.