Vicky Cayetano is out with her second 30-second political advertisement for broadcast television.

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“We keep hearing about the same issues,” says Cayetano in the ad, “affordable housing, homelessness and the high cost of living. But we don’t see any progress.”

The spot shows images of people sleeping on streets and in parks, and tent cities as part of the downtown Honolulu landscape and along the shoreline.

Cayetano, a Democrat running for governor, started running the commercial this week on KGMB, KHNL, KHON and KITV. It’s tied to her campaign’s release last month of “A Family Focused Economic Plan.”

Watch the ad:

Thirty seconds is not a lot of time to discuss a plan that is seven pages long. But the TV clip suggests that Cayetano’s business experience running a laundry service will serve her well as the state’s chief executive.

It also points out that Cayetano wants to suspend the state general excise tax for families, a pretty major proposal released March 12 but one that received little attention.

That could prove to be a compelling selling point for her campaign. Cayetano, a former first lady, is calling for a one year suspension of the 4.5% GET on food, medicine and diapers for families making under $100,000 a year.

As the plan itself explains, “Tax credits or exemptions for specific groups or businesses are enacted regularly by the state for enterprises such as film production, renewable energy projects, photovoltaic panels, coastal mitigation efforts. However, this would be the first-of-its-kind tax suspension to benefit the average consumer.”

The TV ad closes with a plug for Cayetano’s website. Whether viewers will bother to click on it is another matter, but it is to Cayetano’s credit that she has released a plan — something that often comes from gubernatorial candidates but usually later in the campaign when voters (and reporters) are paying more attention. The Hawaii primary is Aug. 13.

Perhaps other highlights from the economic plan, though often light on detail, might be used in future TV ads from Cayetano — for example, declaring a “state of emergency” to prioritize Hawaiian Home Lands or supporting a visitor user fee to better care for the environment and natural resources.

Cayetano’s “Economic Plan” runs through Sunday on local news, “Family Feud,” “Shark Tank” and other programs at the cost of about $20,000.

Read All About It

Cayetano’s primary primary competitors — Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, so far — have yet to take to the television airwaves. But Caldwell does have four new print advertisements running in island daily newspapers.

They include two that ran in the latter half of March in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, one focused on transportation, the other on the housing crisis.

One of those ads initially struck me as ill-timed, though I don’t blame the Caldwell campaign.

The ad begins in large type: “Where should rail transit end? The answer is very clear.” The answer is “rail needs to go all the way to Ala Moana.”

The timing seemed poor, as the ad ran in the same March 16 issue in which Mayor Rick Blangiardi is prominent on the front page saying rail should now “pause” in Kakaako — that is, two rail stations and 1.25 miles short of the original plan.

Caldwell housing ad March 2022
A recent Kirk Caldwell print advertisement on housing. 

Blangiardi’s idea, which is based on the cold reality that there isn’t currently enough cash to get rail to Ala Moana, is far from a done deal.

But could it somehow benefit Caldwell, who more than any other island politician save Mufi Hannemann is linked to rail?

“This is indeed a state matter since rail funding is largely in the hands of the legislature and there are state-appointed members on HART’s board,” the ad explains. “Any candidate who tries to pretend otherwise is dodging the issue.”

I give Caldwell credit for tackling head on his greatest perceived political albatross.

The other print ad, this one ran in Wednesday’s Star-Advertiser, declares, “I would declare a state of emergency to address Hawaii’s homeless crisis.”

(Of note: I smell an emerging “state of emergency” theme in the 2022 campaign.)

That print ad says that from 2015 to 2020 — that is, the last five years of Caldwell’s term — Oahu saw a 10% decrease in total homelessness, a 48% drop in homeless families, a 45% decline in homeless children and a 24% reduction in veteran homelessness.

Caldwell was scheduled to run another ad in the Sunday Star-Advertiser, this one headlined, “We won’t make our 2045 energy goals unless we take more action now.”

Caldwell is also running ads on the neighbor islands with somewhat different yet related topics. The Maui News, for example, has a Caldwell ad that brings up repairing or replacing aging bridges on the Hana Highway and making improvements to the Kihei Interchange to ease congestion during peak hours.

As noted in a previous Ad Watch, newspaper readership has long been shrinking as is the watching of commercial television. People get their entertainment and news in other ways, including through social media.

But what the print ads show is that Caldwell is a candidate who is betting that voters want to hear — or read or see — specifics on what they might do if elected governor. Same goes for Cayetano’s GET exemption.

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