Mufi Hannemann was Honolulu’s first mayor of Samoan ancestry and the second Honolulu mayor to be born on Oahu since statehood. An astute politician whose ambition can be traced back to childhood, Hannemann has proved capable of working with high ranking officials regardless of party.
Hannemann lost to opponent Tulsi Gabbard in the August 2012 Democratic primary for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. Gabbard received 54 percent of the vote while Hannemann received 34 percent.
Prior to the August primary, the Hannemann campaign had lagged behind Gabbard in campaign donations, motivating Hannemann to loan himself $150,000. A Civil Beat poll predicted that Gabbard would beat Hannemann by 20 points.
Hannemann announced his candidacy in the 2012 race for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District on Aug. 30, 2011.
His announcement for CD2 came less than a year after Hannemann lost the Democratic primary for Hawaii governor to his longtime rival, former Congressman Neil Abercrombie. After the 2010 election, he took a high-profile job as president of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association.
During the gubernatorial primary 2010 primary, Abercrombie handily defeatedHannemann 59.4 percent to 37.8 percent for the Democratic nomination. Abercrombie went on to win the general election against Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona 58-41 percent.
The 2010 primary race between Abercrombie and Hannemann was distinguished most by negative campaigning from Hannemann and his supporters that recalled the 1986 race between the candidates for the 1st Congressional District.
Hannemann could not win the primary despite endorsements from the state’s biggest and most influential organized labor union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association AFSCME Local 152, AFL-CIO, with 43,000 members and the state’s largest construction union, Hawaii Carpenters Local 745, with about 7,500 members. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, the state’s largest private sector union representing about 18,000, had also endorsed the former mayor.
After the primary, Hannemann told Civil Beat that he waited too long to resign from his job as mayor and entered the race too late. He stepped down July 20, 2010.
Hannemann was born Muliufi Francis Hannemann on July 16, 1954, to Samoan-German-English immigrants Gustav and Faiaso Hannemann, the sixth of seven children. He was raised in Kalihi and attended public elementary school before transferring to the prestigious private Iolani School, graduating in 1972.
Hannemann is fond of reminding people that he attended Fern Elementary School, which was named for Honolulu’s first mayor, Joseph Fern.
He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University and was a Fulbright Scholar at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Hannemann is married to Gail Mukaihata Hannemann, chief executive officer of the Girl Scout Council of Hawaii.
Hannemann was been a history teacher and varsity basketball coach at Iolani School, as well as an executive for C. Brewer and Company. However, the bulk of his experience has been in public service at municipal, state and federal levels. He served under four of the past six U.S. presidential administrations and used his experience as a White House fellow during the Ronald Reagan administration as the model when he founded the Pacific Century Fellows, a leadership mentoring program. He was a special assistant to Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi and cabinet member under Gov. John Waihee, serving as director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism and the Office of International Relations.
After unsuccessful bids for U.S. Congress, Hannemann was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 1995 and served five years, including as chairman. He resigned from the council to run against incumbent Mayor Jeremy Harris, who won re-election in the 2000 primary election.
In 2004, Hannemann became the 12th mayor of Honolulu, beating former Council member Duke Bainum by a margin of about 1,350 of the almost 295,000 votes cast. He was re-elected in 2008, beating Councilwoman Ann Kobayshi by a 15 percentage-point margin.
Hannemann is probably best known for advancing the Honolulu rail project project, and was the first mayor to convince both the state Legislature and City Council to approve a half-percent general excise tax surcharge to help fund a rapid transit project.
As mayor, he raised vehicle weight taxes and doubled sewer fees to fill potholes and make much-needed sewer repairs. Hannemann is also known for efforts to move the homeless out of public parks, starting with a massive cleanup of Ala Moana Beach Park in 2006 in preparation for the first Honolulu Family Festival.