The Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest union, is endorsing Keith Amemiya in the Honolulu mayoral election, the group announced on Thursday.

HGEA executive director Randy Perreira said the organization’s political action committee felt Amemiya has a “proven history of caring for the people of Hawaii.”  Amemiya is a former senior vice president of Island Holdings, the parent company of Island Insurance, and a former director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. The first-time candidate has described himself as an outsider who can provide a fresh perspective and restore trust in government.

Keith Amemiya hugs supporters after announcing his candidacy for Mayor at Ala Wai Field.

The union is backing a campaign already supported by powerful business leaders and developers. 

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“He’s smart, he brings people together and he gets the job done,” Perreira said in a statement. “In times of crisis and in economic prosperity, we believe he will base his decisions on what is good for the people of Hawaii, not just numbers.”

In a statement, Amemiya said HGEA’s 40,000 members are providing essential public services during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Because they don’t seek recognition, they are often forgotten by people at the top, but I see them,” he said. “If and when we prevail in this Mayor’s race, it will be my greatest honor to work side-by-side with our public employees to rebuild a strong middle class, chart a new course with fresh ideas, and emerge from this COVID-19 disaster with hope and health for all.”

As of February, Amemiya had raised the most campaign cash among those seeking to replace Mayor Kirk Caldwell. This week he ranked third in a Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll of voters. Former HNN General Manager Rick Blangiardi was the candidate with the most support followed by former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, Amemiya, City Councilwoman Kym Pine, and activist Choon James. Thirty percent of respondents said they are unsure who they’ll vote for, and another 12% won’t vote for any of those candidates.

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