Three weeks from Election Day, Rick Blangiardi enjoys a comfortable advantage over Keith Amemiya in the race for Honolulu’s next mayor.

According to a new Civil Beat/HNN poll, the former general manager of Hawaii News Now has 48% of the vote compared to 28% for Keith Amemiya, a former insurance executive. Nearly one-fifth (19%) said they are undecided while just 5% said they did not prefer either candidate.

Blangiardi’s electoral strength is demonstrated in two ways.

Honolulu Mayoral Candidate Rick Blangiardi.
Honolulu mayoral candidate Rick Blangiardi is the favorite to win the race Nov. 3, according to the Civil Beat/HNN Poll. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

The first is that he is now backed by significant numbers of supporters of Colleen Hanabusa, Kym Pine, Mufi Hannemann and Bud Stonebraker, who all finished behind the second-place Amemiya in the field of 15 candidates.

Amemiya (who took 20% of the vote in the Aug. 8 primary) even lost some votes to Blangiardi (who came in first in the primary with 25%) in the latest survey.

The other electoral strength is seen in Blangiardi voters who do not identify as liberal or Democrat but rather as Republican and conservative (71% each), independent (61%) and moderate (48%).

While the mayor’s race is nonpartisan, Blangiardi is favored not only by 66% of those who voted for Charles Djou, a former Republican, in the 2016 mayor’s race but also by a lot of people who backed Mayor Kirk Caldwell, a well-known Democrat.

And Blangiardi is well ahead of Amemiya among male and female voters, older and younger, those with or without college degrees, those wealthier and less so, and from a variety of ancestries.

Even a large number of undecided voters, including 24% of female voters, may not be enough to change the race’s current dynamic.

“Even if the undecided break 10-to-1 for Amemiya, he still loses to Blangiardi,” said Matthew Fitch, managing partner of MRG Research, which conducted the Civil Beat Poll with media partner HNN. “And why would they break? Things might tighten up a bit, but Blangiardi is knocking on the door of 50% of the vote.”

‘New Blood’

Kathy Akau of Kailua is among those Oahu residents who have already voted for Blangiardi.

“He’s a good manager,” said Akau, who closed an auto repair service at the end of December after 33 years in business. “I like the way he speaks and that he really is for the people.”

Akau, who supported Pine in the primary and Djou four years ago, said she is not impressed with Amemiya’s background running the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. She also fears that Amemiya is part of the so-called old boys network.

“I’m just sick and tired of that,” she said. “I think we need new blood, not just another politician.”

Robert Wright of Makaha also backs Blangiardi, although with less enthusiasm.

“It’s more of a lesser of two evils,” said Wright, who retired in February from United Airlines after 35 years as a captain. “As far as I am concerned, they are all part of the game. But Amemiya, he’s got 30 unions backing him. And that’s part of our problem. We’ve all been snowballed.”

Regarding Blangiardi, who Wright voted for in the primary, he says, “He has not really been involved in government and I just felt he was the most qualified of the bunch.”

Wright is worried about the island’s direction when it comes to the rail project (“mind-boggling”) and homelessness (“terrible”).

But it is the crackdown on vacation rentals that most upsets Wright, who owns several rental properties but who has had to let go of workers since Bill 89 was passed last year.

“As a businessman, I would hope that Blangiardi would be more sympathetic, but I am not sure whether anybody will ever be able to change things,” he said.

Ellen Inouye of Palolo is sticking with Amemiya. The 91-year-old retiree describes her preferred candidate as “an all-around person,” meaning that Amemiya listens to people, had good ideas and knows how to lead.

Inouye is also touched by the fact that Amemiya grew up with a mentally ill mother, noting that her own family has suffered from schizophrenia.

“So that’s why I got interested in him,” says Inouye, who voted for Hanabusa in August and Caldwell in 2016.

Like many voters, Inouye said she is worried about rail and homelessness but also the economic impact of COVID-19.

The poll, taken Oct. 2-7, surveyed 699 Oahu voters. The poll’s margin of error is 3.7 percentage points.

Civil Beat conducted its poll — a representative sample of registered voters in Hawaii — with MRG Research using a combination of interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling) and a survey administered online.

The touch-tone version was conducted by contacting landline telephones. The online version was conducted by texting cellphones and linking poll participants to an online survey optimized for smartphones.

Coming Wednesday: Steven Alm vs. Megan Kau in the race for Honolulu prosecutor, and the charter amendment on term limits for the office.

Read the full results of Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll on the Honolulu mayor’s race here:


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