Honolulu City Council candidate Trevor Ozawa’s campaign’s newest robocall features the voice of Mayor Kirk Caldwell urging voters to support Ozawa’s District 4 opponent, Tommy Waters.
The new robocall says, “Aloha. This is Kirk Caldwell. I am calling to ask you to consider voting for Tommy Waters.”
But Caldwell says his voice is being misused. And the call ends up being decidedly anti-Waters.
Near the end, a woman says: “We get it mayor. You want and need Tommy on the council to further your tax and spend agenda to fund rail at all cost … Now please leave the election to us and stay out of this campaign. Paid for by the Friends of Trevor Ozawa.”
The Ozawa campaign apparently lifted the recording from a robocall Caldwell made on Waters’ behalf before the Nov. 6 election and is sending it out as if he is making the call now.
“I think this is a misleading robocall,” Caldwell said Thursday. “It mistakenly uses an old recording. If people do not listen until the end they will think that I sent out this call and I did not.”
Caldwell says he supports Waters but he is not endorsing any candidate in the current special election.
He said normally he would not talk about an issue in another candidate’s election, but he said he is responding because his own voice was misused.
One of Ozawa’s key themes in the current special election is that Waters is a rubber stamp for Caldwell, eager to support anything the mayor favors.
“Most people probably just listen to the first few seconds of the mayor’s voice on the robocall and then hang up without listening to the end to hear that the call was made by Ozawa’s campaign,” Waters’ campaign spokesman Jim McCoy says.
In an emailed statement, Ozawa wrote: “The robocall that my campaign put out recently was nothing more than a replay of the robocall that the Mayor sent to thousands of homes last year. It is no secret that the Mayor has publicly donated to and is supporting Mr. Waters’ campaign.”
Ozawa’s public relations specialist, Janet Scheffer, would not respond on the telephone to any questions.
Ozawa and Waters are in a tightly contested special election to represent the City Council district which stretches from Hawaii Kai to Waikiki and Ala Moana.
Voters have until April 13 to mail in their ballots with some walk-in voting allowed the same day.
The special election was called after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that Ozawa’s 22-vote victory over Waters in the November election was invalid.
Political analyst and Civil Beat columnist Neal Milner says, “The robocall continues Ozawa’s disingenuous and dishonest campaign communications strategy.”
“There is a certain amount of slack we give politicians when it comes to truth in an election,” Milner says, “but even by campaign standards this is dishonest. It is so blatantly false, just like a mailer Ozawa sent out earlier that completely makes up something.”
Milner is referring to a flyer the Ozawa campaign sent out to East Oahu voters that falsely implied that Honolulu Civil Beat had been highly critical of Waters and his relationship with Caldwell. That mailer used Civil Beat’s logo and “Support Us” button as a backdrop to the anti-Waters quotes but none of the material had come from Civil Beat.
Another Ozawa mailer that followed a day or so later also is raising eyebrows for using apparently false information. In this one, Ozawa says: “The batch of absentee ballots containing Trevor’s 22-vote winning margin was received by the post office before the 6 p.m. deadline and scanned into the City Clerk’s computer before 6 p.m.”
But the Hawaii Supreme Court declared Ozawa’a Nov. 6 victory invalid after city attorneys presented statements from city elections officials saying the last absentee ballots from the post office were received after the 6 p.m. voting deadline.
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.