The defeat Saturday night of Mufi Hannemann in his run for governor and Kirk Caldwell in his bid for mayor represents a total rejection of the leadership of Honolulu Hale.
Hannemann, mayor the past six years, conceded around 10 p.m. following the second release of results showing Neil Abercrombie had 59.4 percent of votes to his 37.8 percent. Meanwhile, Caldwell was beat by former Honolulu prosecutor Peter Carlisle, 38.7 percent to 34.6 percent.
The losses were a blow to two candidates whose fates were tied together, in part by their total commitment to the city’s planned $5.5 billion rail project. Hannemann was successful in tacking on a 0.5 percent increase to the state General Excise Tax in Honolulu.
Hannemann had been at the helm of Honolulu Hale since 2004 and Caldwell had been managing director the past two years. The victors, Abercrombie and Carlisle, both also supported rail, but they weren’t tied to the controversies over the project, such as questionable contracts, delays and problems with the route.
Another sting: Hannemann and Caldwell were the choice candidates of Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka, although the senators never formally endorsed them.
Their losses in the primary also raise questions about whether Hannemann’s campaign decisions directly impacted Caldwell’s chances. For one, Hanneman’s choice not to formally resign from office until July 20 raised questions about his commitment to becoming Hawaii’s governor. He essentially had his feet in two places until July 20 while Abercrombie quit Congress in February and came back to Hawaii to run full time.
That meant that Caldwell was overshadowed by Hannemann and was left with a short window to build momentum for his campaign. He was acting mayor for just two months before the election. Yet he still managed to raise close to $1 million, almost twice as much as Carlisle. And it appeared that if the election had occurred in November, he might have had a better chance. A poll in August showed a huge gap between Carlisle and Caldwell. But by September 7-8, when Civil Beat conducted a poll, the two were just 7 percentage points apart.
Caldwell clearly outpaced Carlisle in the final televised debate on Tuesday, but it was too little too late. Carlisle, who had won four elections as prosecutor, won his fifth on Saturday night.
Hannemann’s negative advertising also may have influenced voters who viewed the two as likeminded, although Caldwell dismissed the idea.
Asked directly on election night if negativity from Hanneman’s infamous “compare/contrast” flier spilled over to his campaign, Caldwell said: “Our campaign was run all factually. It’s about dealing with issues and facts — the give and take is something people need to see to make their decision.”
While Caldwell always maintained that everything he did was factual, in fact an ad he ran characterizing Carlisle as a loose spender was false. The city budget increased under Hannemann more than the prosecutor’s budget had under Carlisle.
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