To watch the 30-second political commercial titled “A Kid from Kalihi” is to be reminded that Mufi Hannemann is a familiar face with a long and impressive pedigree.
Narrated by the candidate for Honolulu mayor himself, the spot features a very young Mufi with his late parents, a teenage Mufi playing hoops at Iolani School, a college-age Mufi at Harvard, a young working-adult Mufi at the White House (with clips of Mufi with Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) and an early-career Mufi with George Ariyoshi and John Waihee.
A picture of Mufi meeting Barack Obama is included, too, although to the best of my knowledge Hannemann never worked for Obama’s White House. There is also no mention of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who Ballotpedia and Wikipedia tell me Hannemann did work for.
But the larger point is that Hannemann works well with both sides of the aisle, an important message in running for a nonpartisan office.
“I’d like the chance to serve you again,” Mufi says after the video shows him being sworn in after his 2004 mayoral election. “If you put me back in my old job, I will put you back in yours.”
Watch the ad:
The themes in “A Kid from Kalihi” are heard as well in three other 30-second spots. They all feature the same musical soundtrack (a pleasant, upbeat tune) and many of the very same images, including Mufi being sworn is as mayor and Mufi walking tall with men in construction vests.
But each ad has its own unique content, too.
“Strong and Tested” shows Mufi with his three county mayoral counterparts as Mufi boasts about leading Honolulu out of the 2008 recession.
“Our Comeback” addresses defeating COVID-19 without mentioning the pandemic but with yet another familiar — and lovely — clip of the 6-foot-7 Mufi participating in a Bon dance.
And “Mufi has a Plan,” while again similar to the other three ads, opens with local banking executive Paul Yonamine explaining why Mufi has his vote. Celebrity Chef Roy Yamaguchi says much the same.
Watch the ad:
All four ads end with a smiling candidate walking toward the camera in a suit and tie and the end screen plugging “Mayor Mufi” and MufiforHonolulu.com. He is so well known that there is no need for a surname.
The Hannemann campaign wants voters to recall that, hey, Mufi was a pretty good mayor and things were a lot better when he was in office (2005-2010) than today.
No, there is no mention of Hannemann’s role in making the rail project possible, or his forced evacuation of the homeless from Ala Moana Regional Park, two issues that remain with us today but each under harsher circumstances.
But for now, anyway, that’s not the purpose of Hannemann’s political advertisements. They are to sell a mayor who has “been there, done that,” and in that, his ads succeed.
The Hannemann campaign has been running 30-second ads on KGMB and KHNL since June 3 and plans more through July 3. The cost is about $20,000, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission.
The campaign also dropped several grand on KHON earlier this month to run the spots.
The Hannemann campaign tells me it is also pushing the candidate on digital and social media. There is, for example, a 1-minute version of “Mufi has a plan.”
You might also come across a 2-minute-16-second opus called “Together,” which is a sort of mashup of all the other ads. It includes a rare disclosure from a political candidate not widely known for admitting error:“I’ve learned from my shortcomings, and I’ve grown as a human being,” he says.
Watch the ad:
I don’t recognize the woman at left above, but I’m pretty sure that that’s local hotel executive Kelvin Bloom at right. Message: the visitor industry loves Mufi, himself a tourism industry executive.
The spot also features Hannemann referring to his top opponents by their first names — Rick (Blangiardi), Keith (Amemiya), Kymberly (Pine) and Colleen (Hanabusa) — accompanied by video defining their respective professions (a TV camera, a high school basketball game, the Honolulu City Council and the U.S. Capitol Building).
“My opponents — they’re all good people who want to serve,” says Hannemann. “But I? I’ve been your mayor.”
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Support local journalism
Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.