Kirk Caldwell, who will complete his second and final term as Honolulu mayor in January 2021, is weighing a campaign for Hawaii governor in 2022.
Lex Smith, campaign chairman for all three of Caldwell’s mayoral bids, acknowledges that the mayor is looking at the governor’s office as well as others.
They include the Honolulu City Council seat being vacated by Ann Kobayashi, and the 1st Congressional District that represents urban Oahu.
“I think mostly what he is considering is trying to get as much done as he can as mayor,” said Smith. “But I think all of the possible races you mention and maybe others are ones he is considering for his future as well.”
Caldwell, 66, has been mayor since January 2013. He previously served briefly as acting mayor when Mufi Hannemann resigned the post in 2010 to run for governor.
Caldwell was Hannemann’s managing director. He served in the state House of Representatives from 2002 to 2008, which included the last two years as majority leader.
While Caldwell has not publicly announced his intentions, he has scheduled a campaign fundraiser Oct. 1 at the Waialae Country Club. Suggested donations range from $1,000 to $4,000.
The fundraiser is for the office of mayor, even though Caldwell cannot by law run for mayor again. He would be allowed to use any money raised, however, for a county or state office, but not federal office.
It is unusual for a term-limited official to raise money, unless he or she has a campaign debt to retire. Caldwell last held a fundraiser in March 2017. His campaign had $117,000 in cash as of June 30.
The governor’s seat is not open until 2022, when Gov. David Ige will complete his second and final term.
Republican Andria Tupola, a former state legislator who lost to Ige in 2018 by a landslide, is also considering another run for governor.
No matter which office Caldwell seeks, the issue of the unfinished Honolulu rail project will be front and center. He has been a strong proponent for the project and led efforts to secure funding from the federal government and the Legislature.
But the mayor has seen success in controlling homelessness, paving roads, upgrading sewers and curbing the proliferation of short-term vacation rentals. Caldwell’s recent priorities include addressing climate change.
The race to succeed him is already underway, likely including former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.
Other experienced politicians who may seek the governorship include Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz and his predecessor on the committee, former state Sen. Jill Tokuda.
“I am still very much dedicated to public service, and I am exploring all possible options, including looking at governor in 2022,” she said. “For me, it is about what is the best possible way to serve my community or state. I’ve not ruled anything out.”
Dela Cruz, who reported having $644,750 in cash on hand, said, “My focus is running for re-election next year. There are quite a few things I want to finish and continue to work on in my district.”
Tokuda, who finished second to Green in the 2018 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, reported having zero cash remaining from her LG bid.