For years, Rick Blangiardi was a familiar presence to viewers of Hawaii News Now, KGMB and KHNL.

As general manager of the three sister stations, he starred in mini-editorials called “Local Connections” that took on critical issues facing the city and state — especially rail and homelessness.

Blangiardi walked away from the TV gig in January to run for mayor of Honolulu, even though he’s never before run for office.

But beginning earlier this month, Blangiardi returned to Hawaii News Now — the station he helped create in 2002 — this time in paid political advertising. (Full disclosure: Civil Beat is a media partner with HNN.)

The 30-second spot is called “Our Road Ahead.” Watch the clip:

Blangiardi does not actually use the words “COVID-19,” “coronavirus” or “pandemic.” But when he says “Hawaii is in a historic battle,” it is obvious what he means.

He credits all the folks performing heroically (read: first responders) and making sacrifices (read: everyone).

“Thank you,” he says, staring straight into the camera and making an open gesture with his hands, as he does often.

The camera then quickly zooms in as Blangiardi’s face dominates the screen.

“The next mayor will face an economic crisis that will take much more than our goodwill to defeat,” he says. “We will need strong leadership and new ideas.”

He concludes by saying he will have more to say “as we work through this together.”

Blangiardi barely smiles in the spot, which makes sense, given the continuing crisis. He doesn’t say what he will actually do if he becomes mayor.

But the sheer physical presence of Blangiardi, a former football player at the University of Hawaii Manoa, is all there is to see. There’s no bucolic background, no snippets of keiki to hug, no kupuna to praise, no potholes to fill, no towering buildings gleaming in the sun.

The candidate’s message is this: Running for mayor in 2020 is as serious as it has ever been, and he’s your guy.

The ad concludes with a musical crescendo and the words “It’s about you” — his campaign slogan — featured in all caps.

A screen shot from Rick Blangiardi’s first TV ad in his campaign for mayor of Honolulu.

Blangiardi, it appears, has settled on a branding strategy in his media buys: I am a strong leader.

Two other 30-second ads were launched Monday, also only on Hawaii News Now, and each is nearly identical to the first. It’s just Rick Blangiardi wearing a different aloha shirt amply filled out by his broad frame and talking about leadership in tough times.

The other two ads are tagged “Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy — for each other” and “You are the reason I am running for Mayor.”

“As island folks, we understand the value of kuleana to each other and our community,” he says in one of the ads with — at least to my ear — a trace of a working-class Boston accent. (Blangiardi first moved to Hawaii in 1965.)

You can view all three ads on Blangiardi’s campaign website.

Before COVID-19 came to town, the only other mayoral candidate this year to run prominent television advertising has been Keith Amemiya.

Other declared mayoral candidates include former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.

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