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

During the first five seconds of Peter Carlisle’s 30-second television commercial, Dan Inouye appears no less than three times.

The Democratic senator has been dead for nearly four years now, but he remains a beloved and prominent figure in Hawaii.

What Carlisle is doing is reminding viewers (and voters) that Inouye championed the rail project.

The late senator with the former mayor in from of a map of Honolulu rail.
The late senator with the former mayor in front of a map of Honolulu rail. Carlisle for Mayor

(Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka is also pictured in a ground-breaking ceremony for the project.)

Playing the Inouye card is not uncommon in Hawaii politics. Kirk Caldwell, the mayor whom Carlisle wishes to unseat, mentions the late senator’s name often.

But then, Caldwell actually worked in Inouye’s office back in the day, so his ties to the senator are more substantial.

Hawaii Elections Guide 2016

No matter. Most voters are not likely to know this and Carlisle — an independent — is appealing to people who not only want the full 20-mile rail route completed, but also to Democrats and other groups (especially Japanese-Americans, who represent a large and reliable voting bloc) that continue to revere Inouye.

(Caldwell actually is a Democrat while Carlisle has never run for office as a partisan candidate. The mayoral contest is nonpartisan.)

“Rail is the future of Honolulu,” Carlisle says in the ad. “My opponents would derail the train at Middle Street. This is nonsense. We must finish what we started.”

Caldwell has only called for temporarily ending rail at Middle Street and has repeatedly reminded residents that he, too, wishes to go all the way to Ala Moana Center once there is sufficient funding.

Charles Djou’s position has been to be open to alternatives including stopping at Middle Street, but the former Republican congressman’s bottom line is that he does not want to use any more local taxpayer money on the train.

Carlisle says nothing about where the extra money will come from to finish the rail project, although he has said elsewhere that about $1.5 billion will be needed and that the federal government might be the most promising source.

But he’s not going to cram that into a TV spot, one which features at length a nicely framed shot of the candidate standing in front of a completed, very clean looking section of the rail route in the Kapolei area.

The tag line from an announcer says, “Peter Carlisle for mayor. Leadership you can trust.”

Lack of trust in Caldwell is the major argument that Djou makes for putting a new mayor in office. What Carlisle is reminding people is that, when he ran Honolulu Hale, the job of rail was getting done.

And Inouye was right at his side.

View the ad:

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