Welcome to Ad Watch, a Civil Beat series in which we analyze campaign messages from Hawaii candidates and national spots aimed at Hawaii voters.

One month after launching his first radio advertisement for his re-election campaign, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is now running his first television commercials.

Like the radio spots. and like his campaign platform, the emphasis is on infrastructure: roads, sewers, parks, waste, the unglamorous but necessary part of being a big city mayor.

With large letters on the screen imposed over gauzy but discernible images, the one-minute ad ticks off statistics — 1,040 paved roads, a 2,100-mile sewer system, nine treatment plants, 20 refurbished parks, 30 new playgrounds.

The ad studiously avoids any mention of one big piece of infrastructure: the massively over-budget Honolulu rail project, now projected by federal officials to cost up to $8.1 billion.

A screen shot from Mayor Caldwell's first television advertisement of the 2016 campaign.

A screen shot from Mayor Caldwell’s first television advertisement of the 2016 campaign.

Caldwell For Mayor

The mayor, who is seeking a second and final four-year term, also talks up public safety and the importance of police, firefighters and emergency medical services.

Job one is providing fundamental services, and first and foremost is public safety,” he says.

Always attuned to local sensibilities, Caldwell is wearing a light blue aloha shirt in the spot, and he uses words like “opala,” meaning trash or rubbish in Hawaiian.

Hawaii Elections Guide 2016

Caldwell has a figure for opala, too — 1.2 million tons a year.

He makes a subtle dig at his predecessors when he says the City and County of Honolulu has not been keeping up with infrastructure “for decades.” One of those predecessors, Peter Carlisle, is now trying to wrestle back the job he lost to Caldwell in 2012.

Caldwell said he had about about $1.5 million in cash on hand as of last month, and he continues to hold fundraisers. That suggests he will continue to cover the airwaves with campaign commercials.

On Wednesday, at an endorsement announcement from labor groups, the mayor said he expected to start running print ads soon. The campaign already is posting online ads on websites such as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s.

The web ads promote his campaign pitch, which is also found at the end of the TV spot: “People. Priorities. Progress.”

Voter takeaway: Caldwell is promoting a consistent, uncomplicated theme across a variety of platforms. Vote for him, he suggests, and you’ll get what he promises.

Watch the ad:

Join in the discussion of these ads and other issues in the 2016 elections in our new Facebook Group, Civil Beat Politics.

About the Author