When Vicky Cayetano declared her candidacy for governor of Hawaii, she did so in a very traditional way: in person, with family and friends at her side and with the State Capitol as her backdrop.

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(Was she bedecked with lovely lei? Of course.)

When Josh Green made official his own campaign, he did so in a slick two-minute video released for wide distribution. (Was he pictured with his family and stethoscope? Duh.)

Both announcements were covered by local media.

But when Kirk Caldwell finally jumped in the Democratic primary for certain, he elected to do so through a large paid advertisement in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, an ad that ran in neighbor island dailies as well.

The news did get picked up, including in the next day’s issue of the Star-Advertiser: “Kirk Caldwell Joins Gubernatorial Race.”

No surprise there, as the Star-Advertiser relies on paid advertising.

But Civil Beat didn’t say anything about Caldwell’s run at the time, in part because it had long been expected. Indeed, our media partner Hawaii News Now confirmed as recently as Feb. 18 that the former Honolulu mayor was in the running against Cayetano, the former first lady, and Green, the current lieutenant governor.

Here’s the ad in full:

Caldwell gov ad in S-A March 2022

Why the old school approach for Caldwell, especially since newspapers are a dying breed?

A couple of thoughts: Older residents are much more likely to still read a print newspaper, and they are much more likely to vote, as compared with younger generations. (Note: I am one of those people.)

Caldwell also announced in a rather provocative way: by tackling head-on what a lot of people are thinking.

“Why I’m running for Governor,” the ad states in large letters. “Even if some don’t think I can win.”

The Caldwell campaign is counting on the fact that the candidate served eight years as Honolulu’s chief executive as well as a stint as managing director. He also previously served in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

“I actually think the governor’s job should be more like a mayor’s — to listen and respond to community needs, take action, and improve the everyday lives — and the future well-being — of people on every island,” the ad explains, using the first person.

The ad allows Caldwell to list a lot of goals: dealing with climate change, more money and local control for public education, more affordable housing, more help for Native Hawaiians, better highways.

“Our team took on similar challenges in Honolulu,” Caldwell says in his ad, and then ticks off some numbers: the building of 10,000 housing units, the repaving of 2,300 lane miles, new sewers and infrastructure.

Caldwell also does not ignore his greatest vulnerability. He promises to finish rail to Ala Moana “and beyond to UH.”

In short, the ex-mayor is running on a platform of an experienced executive. He doesn’t say it, but implied is that a medical doctor (Green) and a laundry owner (Cayetano) haven’t had to make the kinds of tough choices he has made.

The print ad also looks a lot like a mailer. Don’t be surprised if a similar version shows up in voters’ mailboxes.

Will it work?

That depends on how many people buy his argument, let alone buy newspapers, let alone read the fine print of the print advertisement before moving on to the sports page.

And his opponents are sure to raise other vulnerable points — there are many — starting with the indictments of two of his former aides and one of his appointees to the Honolulu Police Commission.

The Caldwell ad ran again in Sunday’s Star-Advertiser. Cayetano’s first TV ad — the first gubernatorial TV ad of the season — finished running last week. More Democrats may enter the race. It’s only March and the primary is Aug. 13.

Conclusion? More Ad Watches to come!

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