Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle has officially filed his candidacy for his old job, but City Council Chair Ernie Martin is staying out of the race.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Carlisle criticized what he sees as lack of leadership at Honolulu Hale and a lack of improvement on homelessness and the city’s rail project.

Carlisle will challenge incumbent Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who is seeking re-election.

Notably absent from the race will be Martin, who has frequently clashed with Caldwell over issues ranging from homelessness to the city’s rail project, and previously said that he was considering a run for mayor.

Peter Carlisle gives press conference announces his run for mayor. 13 may 2016.
Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle initially announced his plan to run for mayor during a press conference May 13. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Martin posted a statement on his campaign website Monday stating that he decided not to run after months of reflection.

“I have taken the lead in ensuring that the rail project is accountable to how it spends our money and advocated for innovative and community-based solutions in addressing our homelessness crisis,” Martin’s statement said. “To step-aside for my personal ambitions at a time when these issues continue to demand true leadership would be selfish.”

Caldwell responded to Martin with a statement of his own Monday, saying there’s a need for collaboration between the administrative and legislative branches.

“I know it was a difficult decision to make, but I appreciate Chair Martin’s careful consideration and I look forward to working with him over the next two years that he will serve on the Council,” Caldwell wrote.

Former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona is among several other candidates who are considering running for mayor.

Aiona pulled papers for three separate races, and told Civil Beat on Monday that he hasn’t yet made a decision about which office he’ll run for.

Candidates have until the end of the day Tuesday to file.

Carlisle: Law And Order Emphasis

Carlisle, a former city prosecutor, said he’s joining the race because of what he sees as the current administration’s lack of leadership.

Carlisle was elected in September 2010 in a special election to complete the term of former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and lost his re-election bid in 2012 to Caldwell.

Carlisle said under his leadership, the rail project would be completed to Ala Moana Shopping Center. City officials have talked about shortening the project due to rising costs — a recent federal estimate said the train could cost as much as $8.1 billion — but Carlisle contended doing so “would kick the can down the road by 10 years and the cost then would be astronomical.”

“If the best thing that a mayor does is to raise money for his own political campaign so much that it’s prohibitive for other people to enter, it’s trying to buy a race.” — Peter Carlisle

Carlisle also emphasized a law-and-order approach to homelessness, noting that trespassing “should be prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law.”

“If you’ve got somebody who is defecating and littering, they are a blight to the beauty of this island and they can be dealt with for behaving in that fashion,” he said.

In response to a question about whether he supports Housing First, a philosophy of housing homeless people first before providing wraparound services, Carlisle replied: “If you keep on giving people freebies over and over again, it’s not going to stop the people who are stealing, breaking and trespassing.”

Caldwell’s latest campaign filing showed he had over $1.6 million in December 2015, and he has continued to raise money since then. The mayor has been running ads on the radio for the past two months and has been buying TV spots for at least a month that tout the progress he has made on fixing roads and sewers.

In contrast, Carlisle has no money and plans to take part in the state’s partial public funding program for candidates. That means he will have to raise $50,000 during the primary in order to receive $50,000 in matching public funds, and must agree to limit his total expenditures to $838,910.

Carlisle was dismissive of how Caldwell’s large war chest might give him a leg up in the race.

“If the best thing that a mayor does is to raise money for his own political campaign so much that it’s prohibitive for other people to enter, it’s trying to buy a race,” Carlisle said. “I don’t think that worked for (former Gov.) Neil Abercrombie and I don’t think it will work for Kirk Caldwell. It shouldn’t.”

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