As print advertising goes, it’s an impressive spot.

The two-page spread in Sunday’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser promoting Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s re-election includes two former governors and the current one, a former U.S. senator and our two current ones, a once and likely future congresswoman, five of the nine City Council members and the son of the most revered politician in Hawaii’s modern political history.

It also prominently displays a certain U.S. president from Hawaii. In all, more than 500 supporters identified, in much smaller type and without color photos, ranging alphabetically from Laretta Abzlos to Dr. Joseph Young.

An excerpt from the two-page political advertisement appearing in the Oct. 23 Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
An excerpt from the two-page political advertisement appearing in the Oct. 23 Honolulu Star-Advertiser. 

The casual page-turner may not notice that U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former governors Neil Abercrombie and Ben Cayetano, and the other four Council members are not included in the ad. Cayetano and Council Chair Ernie Martin are backing challenger Charles Djou.

Still, it’s a powerful pitch to give Caldwell another four years in office. The headline reads, “A Mayor We Trust,” a direct rebuke to Djou, who has made lack of trust in the mayor as his primary selling point.

And nearly all of the prominent pols are Democrats, as is Caldwell. Djou is a Republican in the nonpartisan contest, but Hawaii is very much a blue state.

Hawaii Elections Guide 2016

Don’t read print newspapers? The homepage of the online version of the Star-Advertiser currently features a Caldwell ad (e.g., “Putting People First”) prominently.

The Djou campaign, by contrast, is not running any print advertising, at least not as of Monday. Djou is not running any radio spots, either, something he favored during the primary election. Caldwell, meantime, continues to air radio ads critical of his opponent.

But there is a recent television ad that puts the candidate in a favorable light. The ad begins with Djou’s wife, Stacey Djou, saying, “He calls me beautiful every day, and reads to our youngest every night. The Charles I know is passionate about caring for people.”

Stacey’s maiden name, Kawasaki, is noted (it is not uncommon to make such identifications in elections, the better to appeal to the state’s diverse ethnic mix), and viewers can’t miss the shining wedding ring on her left hand.

The rest of Djou’s 30-second TV clip is boilerplate: the candidate promising to do good (the piece is called “My Plan”) set to an uplifting soundtrack. Nothing fancy, but Charles and Stacey are an appealing couple.

Watch the ad:

A more effective presentation, and one that is available on Djou’s website, explains in less than a minute why Stacey Djou supports her husband.

It’s not polished; there is no music bed, and she appears unscripted. But it manages to convey in a sincere way that Mr. and Mrs. Djou really do care about whether their own kids and eventual grandchildren will be able to afford to live in Honolulu.

It’s a point Charles makes often, but one whose delivery has become a bit too pat. You can view that in a longer video that features the couple.

Again, each time Stacey speaks, one can see why supporters of Djou are especially fond of his wife, who he has described as his best friend and top confidant.

Watch the video:

Djou comes off as less of a professional politician — and thus more engaging — in a brief clip featuring him talking about the need for more “dog parks” in Honolulu.

Especially effective is another video that does not feature Djou speaking at all but rather Don Aweau, a Hawaii Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force veteran. Aweau points out that, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Djou and first responders “served our country” while today “Kirk Caldwell serves himself.”

Caldwell has been attacking Djou for his lack of support for legislation supporting emergency personnel, so this TV ad is a nice retort. Oddly, Djou has not talked much about his service this election season, or at least not as much as in past campaigns. In fact, it is one of his strongest characteristics.

(Maybe Djou should consider assembling a rifle blindfolded, a video that has proven effective for a U.S. Senate challenger in Missouri.)

Here’s one more TV ad from Djou, one that delivers: Senior citizen Karen Shishido complains about the mayor’s six-figure compensation from a local bank.

Watch the ad:

“He doesn’t care about seniors like us,” says Shishido, who goes on to say (accurately) that Caldwell has received big campaign donations from people connected to the over-budget rail project, and (inaccurately) that Caldwell “threatens” to raise property taxes to pay for rail.

OK, back to Caldwell.

In two recent television advertisements, the mayor’s campaign puts a human face on two things he believes he has accomplished in office.

While Caldwell can talk about how he has improved over 75 Oahu parks and playgrounds, it’s much more powerful to show the children of an Oahu mom actually playing in one of those playgrounds — “a nice clean and safe place,” as Amy Cosner, mother of three, puts it in this ad.

“That’s what I like about Mayor Caldwell,” says Cosner. “If he didn’t build this, maybe nobody would even notice.”

Watch the ad:

This ad’s point: Voters are noticing.

The second ad stars “Uncle Clay,” identified as a veteran, who thanks Caldwell for getting him into a home.

Jun Yang, the mayor’s executive director on housing, explains how homelessness has been slowed to 1 percent.

Watch the ad:

Caldwell is not seen or heard in either commercial.

Yet both are persuasive endorsements of his candidacy.

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